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  • Cats are obsessed with staying clean.

  • They can spend up to half their waking hours grooming.

  • Their tongue is covered in tiny spines.

  • They're what makes the tongue feel so 'sandpapery.'

  • These spines, called papilla, are made of keratin, just like their claws and our fingernails.

  • The papilla even look like miniature cat claws.

  • They do an impeccable job of detangling their fur.

  • Researchers at Georgia Tech made a 3D model of a cat's tongue to test how it works.

  • See how the fur just peels off?

  • It's because the spines are all angled in the same direction.

  • With a typical hairbrush, you'd have to pick the fur out from between the bristles.

  • So, why are cats so preoccupied with grooming?

  • For them, it's about more than just vanity.

  • For one thing, it's a way to show affectionto build bonds.

  • That's why they appreciate us petting them.

  • And it spreads out oils produced by the cats' skin that gives their fur some water resistance.

  • But when it really comes down to it, for cats, staying clean is a matter of life and death.

  • Cats are carnivores, ambush predators.

  • They hide and sneak up on their unsuspecting prey.

  • One whiff of the wrong odor could give the cat away.

  • But when they pounce, it's their bite that finishes the job.

  • Cats have extra wide mouths so they can get their teeth around their prey's neck.

  • It would be like having the corners of your mouth go all the way back by your ears.

  • But there's a trade-off that comes with that big bite.

  • Those wide mouths mean their lips can't come together to form a good seal.

  • They can't create suction to drink the way we do.

  • So they flick the surface of the water with the tip of their tongue.

  • Researchers at MIT made a model using a glass disc,

  • to show how cats get a drink by just barely touching the water's surface.

  • The water sticks to the disc and to itself.

  • Lift the disc at the right speed and it pulls the water up into a column.

  • Then, the cat bites it at precisely the right moment to get as much water as possible.

  • And all of this happens four times per second!

  • It's a complicated way to take a drink, but it's just one of the prices cats pay to be the expert predators they are.

  • Hey guys, it's Lauren.

  • You know you love fuzzy critters.

  • So check out our other episodes like this one.

  • See what you can learn about a squirrel's mood just by looking at its tail.

  • Or how the fuzziness of owl feathers makes them such stealthy hunters.

  • And if you like the show, share us!

  • Thanks for watching.

Cats are obsessed with staying clean.

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