Geraldine Doig, of Waihopai School, asks :-

Why are cat tongues dry and human tongues wet?

Charlotte Yates, a veterinarian who sings with the group 'When the Cat's Been Spayed' (a three women group which has featured in Lotto advertisements on television), responded.

The answer is a bit tricky. Cat tongues are actually just as wet as your own. Like us, cats have saliva glands that moisten the entire mouth region and contain a special chemical, called an enzyme, and other substances to help with digestion. The difference between a human tongue and a cat's tongue is the size and type of projections (called papillae) on a cat's tongue. In contrast to humans, cats have quite substantial papillae that make a cat's tongue feel quite raspy as opposed to the smooth feel of your own tongue. These features have developed to allow cats to deal with eating fully furred or feathered prey. They will catch and hold their prey in their mouths for some time before the unlucky bird or mouse is actually dead.

Besides this, cats are fastidious groomers. A healthy cat will spend many hours of the day washing and preening its coat. Tests have shown that this habit means proportionally cats have fewer bacteria on their skin than dogs. The papillae on their tongues function much like a comb. You will notice that when a cat has been grooming, afterwards the coat will be damp. However when a cat is ill, particularly with a fever, its tongue will then be quite dry. It will lose interest in grooming and its coat will be quite unkempt. This is a sure sign that your cat should visit the nearest vet.

I hope that doesn't happen to your cat!