Why Do Cats Have Rough Tongues? 5 Unique Reasons Cats Have a Sandpaper Tongue!

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Why do cats have rough tongues?

Why do cats have rough tongues? Cats have rough tongues to perform specific tasks, such as grooming and lapping up water. Let’s look at what makes a cat’s tongue so rough.

If you’ve ever been licked by a cat, you’ll know that their tongue is rough like sandpaper. Many people are surprised the first time they have a cat lick them. A cat’s tongue is rough, as well as being long and flexible so that they can groom themselves more efficiently. It also helps them catch prey, drink, taste food, and even control their body temperature. This article will answer the question, ‘why do cats have rough tongues?’ 

Why do cats have rough tongues?

A cat’s tongue is covered in keratin, which is the same substance that forms human fingernails. It is this keratin that forms burs, known as papillae, to give the cat’s tongue its rough texture. This makes cats especially good at grooming, as the papillae acts like a comb.

1. Catching Prey

Keratin is not only what makes their tongues rough but also very effective when it comes to catching prey. A cat’s tongue works like a grappling hook, allowing them to latch onto fur or feathers in order to pull their meal into their mouth. This also works on some types of insects, which are often caught by the barbs.

As you probably are already aware, cats have incredibly sharp teeth. The barbs or hooks found on a cat’s tongue work in conjunction with their teeth to tear apart prey. This system is so effective that a cat can even catch and eat an animal bigger than itself. Although most domesticated cats don’t have to go out and catch their own dinner, all cats have the same type of tongue as their wild ancestors.

2. Grooming

Cats’ barbed tongues also help a cat groom themselves, which prevents mats from forming in their fur. Cats do this by licking their coats, which removes all dirt and grime. Grooming helps keep a cat clean and healthy. For this reason, you will often see your cat licking its coats regularly.

Related article: Cats’ Grooming Habits: Why Do Cats Groom Each Other And Themselves? 

3. Drinking water

Unlike humans and other mammals, cats don’t use their lips when drinking water. Instead, they use the barbs on their tongue to help them lap up the water. Having a rough tongue helps the cat absorb greater amounts of water than a smooth tongue would.

Why do cats have a rough tongue?

4. Tasting

Like humans, cats use their tongues to taste their food. A cat’s tongue is covered with keratinized stratified epithelium, making it sensitive and allowing taste. Cats have very good taste buds, which some believe makes them fussy eaters. Cats will generally only eat meat and a handful of other ingredients that taste good to them. On the other hand, dogs are omnivores and will eat almost anything you give them.

5. Body temperature control

Cats rely on their environment to regulate body temperature. They sometimes start to overheat due to the weather conditions or because they’ve been sitting too close to a heater or fire. Cats need a way to keep cool and do so by licking themselves. This helps them dissipate heat through saliva evaporation. When you see your cat grooming himself, he’s probably trying to stay cool and not necessarily trying to look good.

Cats also occasionally pant to cool down, although this is less common. They will generally only pant if they have become very overheated. If your cat is regularly panting, you should consult your vet as it may be a sign of health issues such as breathing difficulties.

Why do cats have rough tongues: Conclusion

A cat’s tongue is one of their most unique and important body parts. It’s covered in barbs that have many uses, from drinking more easily to being able to groom their fur thoroughly. A cat’s tongue is also long and flexible, which, combined with a lithe body, allows them to reach all parts of their body.

Both big cats and domesticated cats have barbs on their tongues which help with hunting, drinking, temperature control, and tasting.

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