Have you ever noticed that your cat's tongue feels like sandpaper? Unlike a dog's tongue, a cat's tongue has special features called "papillae". The papillae are small hair-like growths that point towards the back of the mouth. These slightly hooked growths are very strong because they are made of keratin, the same component you can find in human fingernails.
Why do cats need such a rough tongue with a million miniature teeth? There are several reasons. First of all, the papillae are used for self-grooming. They work the same way as a typical human hair-brush. This doesn't mean, however, that you shouldn't help your companion with some grooming from time to time. When you groom your cat, it helps remove dead skin and loose hair. It also helps prevent hairballs.
The other reason why cats need such a rough tongue is holding food and hunting. Along with strong jaws, the papillae help felines hold their food (prey) tight. Also, the papillae help cats pick up small parts of food. In the wild, these miniature teeth help lick the meat off a bone so there are no leftovers.
Moreover, there is a special papillae type at the tip of the tongue and along its sides. These papillae have large taste buds. Thanks to them, cats have a keener sense of taste than dogs.
See also: 10 Cat Tongue Close-Ups