Why does my cat have such a rough tongue?

Cat with a rough tongueThis results from the presence of many tiny projections called papillae over its surface. These would assist the cat in the wild to seize prey in its mouth, anchoring into the body of the unfortunate creature, like tiny fishing hooks. They can also help the cat to rasp fibres of meat off large bones when it licks them.

White cat grooming itself, showing the papillae on its tongueThe other function of these papillae (as shown right) is to act as a comb.

When the cat licks its fur, so loose hairs attach to the papillae and are removed from the coat. There is a possible problem which can arise however, because of the rough surface to the tongue, as the cat will not always wipe the hairs out of its mouth.

If these then end up being swallowed instead, so they can build up in the stomach, giving rise to what is known as a fur ball - a solid mat of hair. Under these circumstances, an affected cat will only eat small amounts of food, returning to its food bowl to eat more regularly, because of the obstruction in its stomach.

A laxative treatment is likely to be necessary to clear this blockage. Your vet will be able to advise you under these circumstances, but grooming your cat regularly, particularly when it is shedding, will help to lessen the risk of fur balls.