Have you ever wondered why getting licked by a cat feels like you are being brushed with sandpaper?
It is because cats have little hooked papillae, barb-like “hairs” pointing toward the back of their mouths that cover the top part of their tongue. These are very stiff and pointy barbs that act like the bristles of a hair brush, or the teeth of a comb.
Cats are by nature very clean animals and they are constantly grooming and cleaning themselves. The barbs on their tongue make grooming a particularly efficient affair for cats.
It is also thought that these barbs also help do the delicate work of separating flesh from bone when a cat eats their prey. But that would seem more likely to be the case for big cats like lions and tigers, whose papillae are significantly more developed.