Friday, November 12, 2010


Engineers have used high-speed videos and mechanical gizmos to figure out the mechanics of a cat's drinking style, confirming what most pet owners know already: Cats are way different from dogs.

Dogs drink by dipping their tongues into liquids like ladles. A little pool of water is brought into the mouth every time Fido takes a gulp from the toilet bowl. Cats, in contrast, touch only the curled-back tip of the tongue onto the surface of the liquid. When the tongue is drawn back up into the cat's mouth, a thin column of the liquid is drawn up as well. Then the cat closes its mouth around that column.

They found that domestic cats average about four laps per second, with each lap bringing in about 0.1 milliliters of liquid. In contrast, tigers, lions and jaguars lap at less than half the rate. In each scenario, the lapping action strikes a balance between the inertia that makes the liquid rise into the cat's mouth ... and the gravity that makes the liquid fall.

"What is remarkable is that cats seem to know about this balance, and lap with a frequency that maximizes this volume ingested," said MIT's Pedro Reis, another co-author of the paper.


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