The feline mouth is excellently equipped to masticate its prey. Adult cats have a total of 30 teeth; 16 top teeth and 14 bottom teeth. The incisors, of which there are 12 upper and lower, are located at the front of the mouth between the 4 canines. There are 2 canines on each side of the mouth, one upper and one lower. The canine teeth are conical, being that they are wider at the base and gradually thin into a point like a cone. A cat has 4 molars located in the back of the mouth, one upper and one lower on each side. Between the molars in the back and the canines in the front are 10 upper and lower premolars. These premolars are akin to scissors, allowing Kitty to slice their prey into pieces small enough to swallow. Wow – that’s quite a lot of teeth in such a small mouth, wouldn’t you say?
So you’re wondering…what does this have to do with grooming a cat? Well, remember those large, curved, pointed canines? These are important to the cat while hunting as they are used for stabbing and clasping their prey. These are also the teeth that can puncture a groomer’s hand. Because of their shape, the depth of the bite is accentuated and can penetrate deep into human tissue.
Cat bites can be dangerous to other animals and to humans. As with all species, including humans, cats carry a large number of bacteria in their mouths that are capable of causing tissue infections in bite wounds. One such bacterium, Pasteurella multocida, is both highly pathogenic and highly common in cats. However, it’s not just Kitty’s victims that have to worry about the bacteria amount hiding in its mouth; gum disease can be very prevalent in felines and cats should have their teeth examined by a veterinarian or feline dentist once a year.
A cat’s tongue is equipped with small barbs called papillae which are angled backwards and made up of keratin, the same substance that makes up our fingernails as well as cat’s claws. The hardness of the papillae enables the cat to direct food or hair into their mouths to be swallowed. It is a feline fact that cats have 473 taste buds, in contrast to human’s who have 9,000 taste buds. Now you finally have the answer as to why they are so finicky about what they eat!
Do you know what polydactylism is? Go ahead and sharpen your nails while we scratch up and file down what we want to share with you in Part 5!