If a cat has ever licked you, then you know cats' tongues are rough. This is due to the tiny, backward barbs on their tongues called papillae. These barbs are made of keratin, which is the same material that comprises human hair and fingernails.
The barbs' main purposes are for grooming and catching and eating prey. Cats must groom their fur regularly to rid it of any loose hairs: papillae help with acting like a hairbrush. The papillae also catch all of the dirt that is in a cat’s fur. Furthermore, these barbs make it easier for cats in the wild to hold their prey in place and strip the meat off of the bones of their meals.
To keep their furry friends healthy and happy, cat owners must take care of these small but important barbs. Cat owners should be on the lookout for illnesses that affect their cats’ mouths, like oral herpes. Diseases like this can cause papillae to fall off permanently, thus leaving patches of the tongue smooth. Without barbs, a cat’s tongue becomes ineffective at grooming, and hinders wild cats from breaking down their prey.
Clearly, a cat’s rough tongue has many purposes. Cat owners need to pay close attention and take care of their pet's vital organ.
[Source: Wisconsin State Journal]