Why Do Cats Have Rough Tongues?

Cats use their tongues for all sorts of things. Licking you to show their affection, for instance. During one of those licks you might have noticed your cat’s tongue was rather rough. It turns out there’s a good reason – well, several good reasons – why cat tongues are so bumpy and coarse. Read on to learn more about the incredible, multi-functional organ that is your cat’s tongue.

Rough Stuff

The roughness of your cat’s tongue is caused by papillae – tiny, backward-facing barbs that cover your cat’s tongue. These barbs helps your cat in all sorts of ways. When eating, the barbs help cats hold prey in their mouths and remove all meat off of bones. Cats are predatory, carnivorous animals by nature after all, so being able to eat effectively is very important. Cats’ rough tongues also aid with grooming. When cats hunt they must remove all traces of food that may have gotten caught in their coats. This food could tip off prey and even other predators. Even if your cat is an indoor pacifist, these behaviors will still show up. The barbs also help pick up loose hairs, effectively acting like a comb. Most of these hairs are swallowed by cats which can lead to hairballs. This is why it’s important to give your cat’s tongue a break and help them groom by brushing them regularly. You’re not only helping out your cat, you’re helping yourself avoid cleaning up hairballs all over your home.

Lapping Up Water

For a long time it was thought cats’ rough tongues helped them when drinking water. Recently this was disproved with high-speed photography. Cats don’t curl their tongues to scoop up water or use the barbs to help collect drops. Instead they dart their tongue into the water quickly, causing a column of water to shoot up from the surface. They then close their mouths to capture the water. Cats certainly are talented creatures.

By Jay Matthews


About the Author
Jay Matthews has been writing professionally for over a decade. He's been an animal lover for even longer. When he's not creating articles or copywriting, he's slowly chipping away at a science fiction novel. He lives with his family and their cat Koko in Los Angeles.