Dr. Chloe Wilde is our wildlife biologist. She studied ecology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Her favorite topic of study is conservation. Dr. Wilde is passionate about learning about and teaching others about how they can help wild cat populations, including reducing their use of products with palm oil in them. Though Carolina Tiger Rescue does not have any, Dr. Wilde’s favorite animal to study is the clouded leopard.
Dr. Wilde’s Blog 11/20/19
Let’s take a look at cat teeth!
All cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must eat meat to survive and thrive. They must catch and eat other animals as prey. Cats have physical adaptations that make them great predators. Physical adaptations are changes to an animal’s body that make it better suited for its environment and life. Everything about cats’ teeth match the way they live. Let’s check this out on a replica, or copy, of a tiger skull.
A cat needs to be able to grab onto and kill prey. They have long sharp teeth in the front of their mouth that they can use to attack. These are called canine teeth and a tiger’s canine teeth can be 3 inches long! Tigers will pull prey to the ground using their bodies and their canines so these teeth go deep into the jaw bone to be strong and sturdy.
While canine teeth are really cool, my favorite adaptation is their back teeth! If you run your tongue across your back teeth, they feel flat. This is because we use our teeth to grind down food before swallowing. Cats do not have flat teeth; they have sharp back teeth called carnassial teeth. These carnassial teeth act like scissors and cut through meat and bone! While eating, cats turn their head to the side to use their carnassial teeth to cut away bits of meat and then they swallow these pieces whole. They do not need to chew and grind up their food like we do. Occasionally, they will bite off a piece a bit too large for them. Then, they will simply regurgitate it, or spit it back up, and try again.
Now that you’ve seen how cats’ teeth are perfect for their diet, check out some of these other animal skulls and think about how their teeth, or even their lack of teeth, matches what they eat!