Sweet fluffy is snuggling next to you, giving you some good head boops, some slow loving blinks and then decides to give you a kiss… OUCH! What is up with my cat’s tongue? Why does it feel like very coarse sandpaper?

What makes our cat’s tongue so rough is they have hard, backwards-facing spines on their tongues, called filiform papillae. Filiform Papillae close up look like little spikes that face the back of the mouth. They remind me of the one way spikes in car parking lots, you know the ones that will flatten all your tires if you go over them the wrong way.

Why do our feline friends have these very stiff papillae? Well you might be surprised that they play a big role in our cats’ lives as far as keeping them well groomed and healthy.

Why The Feline Tongue Is Rough

As any cat owner knows, cats can be meticulous with their grooming. A typical cat can spend as much as 30 to 50% of their day grooming!  Wow! The great thing is they have an amazing brush built in right on their tongue. These papillae glide through their hair making it all pretty.  But there is a down side, these sandpaper tongues can pick up a lot of loose hair which can cause them to get hairballs. This is why it’s always a good idea for us to groom our kitties as well as letting them do their own grooming.

I’m sure you have heard us talk about how cats are obligate carnivores, but what does this have to do with their tongues? These hard filiform papillae are amazing for stripping meat from their prey’s bones which allows them to get the maximum nutritional benefit from their catch. One more fun fact is since the papillae/hooks are backwards, they also help hold the prey in the cat’s mouth.

So next time your kitty wants to give you a sandpaper kiss, marvel at the amazing reasons for their rough tongue.



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