How cats groom

Meeting Abstract

49-5  Friday, Jan. 5 11:00 – 11:15  How cats groom NOEL, A.*; HU, D.L.; Georgia Institute of Technology; Georgia Institute of Technology

The cat tongue is covered in sharp, rear-facing spines called papillae. These papillae are commonly thought to be used in grooming, although their precise function is a mystery. In this combined experimental and theoretical study, we examine the tongues of six cats: domestic cat, bobcat, snow leopard, cougar, tiger, and lion. Using micro-CT technology, we show that the papillae contain a hollow cavity at the tip, contrary to previous literature. These cavo papillae hold and distribute saliva deep into the fur layers. A constant cavity height across cat species corresponds to the height of compressed fur, suggesting papillae and fur evolved in parallel. We design and build a 3D-printed cat tongue mimic to demonstrate how anisotropic papillae can also facilitate easy hair removal post-groom. The unique micro-wicking mechanism in the cat papillae may inspire new fluid-saving techniques for cleaning hair, carpeting, and other porous media.

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