What was that funny, cute and awwwww-inspiring video of a cat that you last saw on the internet? Was it on one of the thousand Facebook pages, a WhatsApp forward, Instagram or on YouTube? Was it a cute kitty amazed by a laser beam on a wall; one trying to catch a fish floating on the screen of a smartphone or was it that beauty basking luxuriously in the sun, licking its fur to spotless brilliance?
Whatever you were watching, or even if you aren’t a ‘cat person’, you surely must have observed that cats spend much of their time (actually nearly 25 per cent of their waking hours) licking themselves. It is estimated that on an average, a cat spends nearly 2.5 hours licking its fur every day.
Ever wondered why would an animal spend nearly one-fourth of its waking time on an activity such as this? And what on earth has the grooming and cleaning industry got to do with this?
Cats like to remain clean, that’s true. But there is more to their infatuation for licking. Researchers say this also helps them remove excess heat and regulate body temperature. And now, armed with studies on cats (actually their multifarious tongues and the dynamics of their licks), bio-engineers are planning to devise devices that may make grooming a hell lot easier for humans and animals alike.
So, how does this happen? How are cats able to keep their fur spotless clean but dogs can’t? What can we learn from their tongues?
To answer this, Alexis C Noel and David L Hu, bio-engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta (US), conducted a study and analysed tongue pattern of six different cat species – domestic cat, bobcat, cougar, snow leopard, tiger and lion (see photo below).
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of US’s most reputed science journals, on December 4, 2018.