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Fun Facts About Cats’ Mouths

April 29, 2012

Ever since Ellie’s latest chipped tooth, I’ve been thinking more and more about how amazing a cat’s physiology is, specifically the mouth. In fact, a cat’s mouth makes our mouths seem downright boring!

Photo courtesy vetmed.wsu.edu

Here are some fun facts I’ve learned:

Kittens are born with 26 teeth, which fall out and are replaced with 30 adult teeth sometime between 3 and 4 months of age. When you look in a cat’s mouth, you (should!) find:

  • 12 incisors, the tiny front teeth, which are used for grooming
  • 4 canines, used for catching and holding prey; also the most common tooth CH cats chip
  • 10 premolars, which allows a cat to tear meat into pieces, like scissors
  • 4 molars, in the back of the mouth, which cannot chew food effectively

Those teeth all have a purpose; however, since a cat’s jaw can only move up and down, it’s impossible for any of those teeth to grind food. This is why cats swallow their kibble whole. (After I learned this, I realized it’s pointless to ask my kitties to slow down and chew their kibble!)

The canine teeth are longer than the incisors because their purpose is to kill prey. Domesticated cats have canine teeth that are narrowly spaced apart, since they prey on smaller rodents.

What just as amazing, if not even more fascinating, is a cat’s tongue. It’s covered with papillae, rigid backward-facing spines, that act like a hairbrush when a cat grooms himself.

The tongue also plays a vital role when it comes to drinking.

As you know, cats lap water since they cannot create suction to suck water. The method of how cats lap water has fascinated now only pet owners, but scientists alike.

Scientists have learned that cats don’t scoop water into their mouths like dogs, rather there’s a “delicate balance between gravity and inertia,” which allows cats to drink. By touching the smooth tip of his tongue against the water, a cat pulls the water upward and closes his jaws before gravity pulls the water down.

To accomplish this, cats have to lap at a precise speed. Scientists concluded that house cats drink at a rate of four laps per second. This results in about 0.1 milliliter of liquid per lap, or about 5 teaspoons a minute.

How cool is that?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Catherine Paciotti permalink
    April 29, 2012 5:54 pm

    Cats are so cool.

  2. April 30, 2012 5:37 am

    Fascinating, thank you!

  3. Christian Gedd permalink
    September 29, 2016 11:39 pm

    Yes!

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