I’m starting a blog! Remember that meme where a plucky prankster subscribed people to cat facts? (#stillfunny.) Did you ever think to yourself “I would actually subscribe to this”?
WELL weirdo, do I have news for you! You are now subscribed to cat facts. Next week you might be subscribed to dog facts. IDK they can fight it out amongst themselves.
CAT FACT 1
Cat tongues are covered in small barbs called papillae, which assist eating and grooming.
Here’s the thing about starting a pet photography business: I’ve been snapping flashless photos of my friends’ animals for years, but this did not prepare me for flash-assisted views of how UTTERLY WEIRD cat and dog tongues are. Have you ever watched—like, really watched—your cat lick it’s face? Do it. They’re like that friend you had in Kindergarten who could touch their nose with their tongue, if that friend was also your other nasty friend who ate their boogers during arithmetic.
I thought to myself, “Allyson, you should research cat tongues and you will realize how fascinating they are and not gross at all.” This was a falsehood. I knew, obviously, that cats groom themselves by licking, but what I didn’t realize is that those barbs on tongues, called papillae, have evolved in cats specifically to grab things and shove them straight down their throat. This is all well and useful when you’re, say, lapping meat off a rat bone, but the barbs are also good at collecting dirt and loose hair, which the cat then has no choice but to swallow. As someone who washes her hands after touching the hair that collects in my shower drain, the thought of swallowing it…okay, you get it.
Which, by the bye, is why cats get hairballs more often than dogs. It’s also why (ALERT: FIRST PET PSA) a ball of yarn is actually a dangerous toy for a cat (they’re not trying to swallow that yarn; they just can’t help it).
Note: yarn-stuck-in-cat-mouth is still hilarious and thus encouraged under proper supervision.
BONUS CAT FACT
Cat and dog tongues grab water differently.
I don’t really want to end my first blog post on hairballs, so you get one more cat fact! People who think about such things used to believe that cats made a little cup and spooned the water in, until some delightful nerds with a high-speed camera recently proved us wrong. According to MIT:
“Cats, unlike dogs, don’t dip their tongues into the liquid like ladles. The cat’s lapping mechanism is far more subtle and elegant. The smooth tip of the tongue barely touches the surface of the liquid before the cat draws its tongue back up. As it does so, a column of liquid forms between the moving tongue and the liquid’s surface. The cat then closes its mouth, pinching off the top of the column for a nice drink, while keeping its chin dry.”
Pretty cool! Here’s a video.
Oh, also, the original MIT nerd who kicked off modern science’s interest in cat tongues? That was electrical engineer Harold “Doc” Edgerton, the first photographer to freeze action using strobe lights. You have definitely seen his iconic work. And if you want to watch the world’s introduction to slow-mo cat tongues, it’s just as fun as it must have been in 1940. Thanks Doc!