Anyone who's been licked by a cat knows their tongue can be very rough. A cat's tongue is an amazing structure that serves many purposes. The center of the tongue is rough due to the backwards-facing spines called papillae. The spines are stiff because they contain keratin, the same substance that makes up hair, fingernails, and claws.
The texture on a cat's tongue makes it a perfect tool for eating and grooming. The spines help cats in the wild lick meat off a bone. For Sammi, they help her lick canned food off a plate! During grooming, the spines act like a comb and help a cat smooth their fur. But since the barbs face backwards, it also means they ingest a lot of fur. This can be a problem for long-haired cats who then get hairballs. Yesterday was National Hairball Awareness day and you can learn about the seriousness of hairballs from Raven.
Surprisingly, the barbs on a cat's tongue aren't very important for drinking. The tip of a cat's tongue is smooth because it doesn't have barbs. Cats drink by dipping just the tip of their tongue into liquid and quickly pulling it up into their mouth, so the barbs don't matter much.
Different cats have different roughness to their tongue. Sammi had a very soft tongue while Raven's tongue is much rougher.
This week's PhotoHunt "Texture" starts here.