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Why do cats have rough tongues but dogs don’t?

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A cat’s tongue feels like sandpaper, and it’s all because they are solitary souls.

Asked by: Ella Ward, Manchester


Cats have hard, backwards-facing spines on their tongues, called filiform papillae. These work like a comb for grooming their fur, and are also used to rasp meat from animal bones. Cats are solitary hunters, but are also small enough to be prey for other animals, so grooming is important to minimise their own scent and make them harder to detect. Dogs evolved from pack-hunting wolves and grooming isn’t so important, so they have ordinary, smooth tongues.

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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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