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From The Vet: Knowing This About Your Cat’s Tongue Could Save Their Life

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Cats are so cool and quirky “cat things” are fascinating! In fact, there is at least one interesting tidbit or factoid about every part of your cat.

Have you ever looked at or felt your cat’s tongue? It is made up of muscle and is rough. The feline tongue actually has tiny fingers on it. These small backward-facing barbs are called papillae. The strength and versatility of the tongue allow it to be the multi-tool of the cat world.

Remember back in the days of Happy Days when the Fonz would whip a small black comb from his pocket and smooth back his slick hair? Well, your cat is even cooler! He doesn’t need a comb or a pocket to keep his look smooth. All he has to do is whip out his tongue. Combing his hair is not just for looks, it can serve some health functions too. Matted hair is uncomfortable for cats and yours wants to smooth out knots and be clean and odor-free.

We do not live in the same sensory world as animals do. Their environment is rich with smells and they must be aware of their own scent.  We care about how we smell only to the point of not repelling others, but your cat is instinctively more concerned with who she may attract with her scent. A cat needs to keep her hair clean, not just for vanity, but also because in the wild, she must remove all traces of scent from her body to avoid becoming a meal for another predator.

Fascination aside, there is something that you need to know about your cat’s tongue that could save her life. Your cat uses her tongue so adeptly and it is so versatile to do jobs, it’s highly mobile. Unfortunately, this can mean that things can get stuck on the papillae and wrap around the base of the tongue and become a life-threatening issue.

For example, if your cat is playing with a string, the features that make her tongue so remarkable can work together to put her in danger. The string can be frayed by the papillae, making it hard for your cat to get it out of her mouth when she is done with it. She might begin to twist her tongue and engage her paws to rid her mouth of the string, but it can wrap itself around the base of the tongue and be anchored there while the rest of the string is swallowed.

This creates a very dangerous situation called a linear foreign body. Your cat’s intestines continue to try to pass the string, but it is anchored under the tongue, so the string starts to act like the elastic on your waistband, bunching the intestines up all the way. This is an emergency! Only your veterinarian can help. If your cat is vomiting, whether you saw her with a string or not, seek help immediately.

Your cat is an amazing creature, from her tail to her tongue. Some of these astounding features can have a downside, so it is up to you to be an attentive cat guardian and be aware of the dangers that being a cat can pose.

Do you love to learn about cats? I love to share about them! Find me on Facebook by clicking here.

Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm
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