Cats’ tongues are rough because they need to be. The sandpaper-like hooks (papillae) on cats’ tongues serve many important functions for a cat. They help a cat groom itself, get food into its mouth, hold small prey in place, and taste.
Additional citation: http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/29856/pets/about_your_cats_tongue.html
The tongue of the feline feels like rough sandpaper and is covered with tiny hook-like barbs called papillae. The barbs are actually pointing backwards, which serve a number of functions.
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