Saturday 24 May 2014

Cat's Canine Teeth

As the cat has a shortened face there is also a shortened jaw with less space for teeth and as a consequence cats have fewer teeth than other carnivores; usually 28 or 30 compared with 42 for dogs and bears.

A cat's teeth are specialised for different tasks.  There are the incisors which are the small teeth at the front of the mouth, used for holding and nibbling (you will see a cat nibbling his fur when grooming).
Cat's canine teeth. See note at base of page
There are the rear molars which move against each other like the blades of scissors for slicing and cutting.  Then there are the large strong and somewhat flattened canines (the fangs you see on either side of the front of the upper jaw) which are used for stabbing and delivering the killing bite usually to the nape of the neck of small prey if we are talking about the domestic cat.

It is said that the cat's canine teeth fit between the neck vertebrae of prey like a "key in a lock" (Paul Leyhausen).

It has also been suggested that the canine teeth of the cat can feel like the fingers of a hand due to the conglomeration of nerves at the base of the teeth.  This allows cats to feel for the gap between the prey's vertebrae before biting and severing the spinal column thereby killing the prey.

The canine teeth of the cat forces the vertebrae in the neck of prey apart a bit like a wedge being hammered into a gap.  This breaks the spinal-cord.

Note: Regrettably I have lost the photographer's name. If you claim this image please tell me in a comment so I can add a credit and a link of your choice.

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