Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
You’ve seen your pet at the water bowl, but did you ever wonder how the water actually reaches its mouth? Roman Stocker, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and research coauthor Pedro Reis used a high-speed video camera to reveal how
cats quench their thirst.
When a dog drinks — or laps — he uses his tongue like a big spoon to scoop up water. Cats have their own style. Stocker’s research shows a cat’s tongue skims the water’s surface.
When a cat’s tongue touches the top of the water, the movement creates a force that pulls the water up. Gravity tries to pull that water back down again, which creates a column of water. The cat closes its mouth just in time to gulp the water column.
Cats do everything with their own sense of time and grace, including drinking. Stocker’s research revealed they lap at the right speed to maximize the amount of liquid they drink. In fact, because of size differences, domestic cats log almost four laps a second, while lions and tigers take less than two laps a second.
Cutta Cutta, a rescue pet from a Boston Animal Shelter, helped this professor identify cats’ unique drinking style.
1. When did you become interested in the way cats drink?
My interest began just over three years ago, while watching my cat, Cutta Cutta, lap. And I became more curious, until we pointed a high-speed camera at him—and voilà.
2. What tools did you use to learn more about how cats drink?
First, we examined high-speed videos of Cutta Cutta. Then we looked at videos of other cats at the MSPCA, as well as videos of felines at the Zoo New England.
3. Next, we used a mathematical model. But our most intriguing tool was a robotic analogue of the tongue, which allowed us to study the lapping style in more detail.
4. Do any other animals drink like cats?
We don’t really know. Some rodents and birds also lap, but no one has looked at how they do it in detail. There might be many ways to lap.
5. Did you bust any myths when you filmed your cat, Cutta Cutta, drinking?
For sure! For example, when a cat drinks, its tongue curls backward, not forward. And the papillae, or the hooked growths on a cat’s tongue that make it rough, aren’t used at all in lapping.
Cutta Cutta isn’t the first cat to earn fame on her milk break. In 1940, MIT Electrical Engineering Professor Harold Edgerton used a kitty in his strobe-light photography research. His work revealed that cats’ tongues curl backward when they drink. His film was featured in Quicker’n a Wink, which won an Academy Award in 1941.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
Charlie beat out 1,612 dogs from 175
breeds and varieties to take home the
prestigious Best in Show title.
Shadow, a pregnant Lab-Terrier mix,
woke up her family when a fire started
near a space heater in their home.
This command can be a useful training
strategy for owners whose kitties are
always underfoot or jumping on counters.
A little bit of caution and preparedness
will go a long way toward helping to keep
your pets safe through the…
When a dog suddenly starts vomiting at
Thanksgiving dinner, SuperVet comes to
the rescue... and for some turkey.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect
on what you love most about your cat —
and to show her some affection…
Before sharing leftover turkey or mashed
potatoes, find out if your favorite holiday
eats are safe or dangerous for…
The Bombay may look like a jaguar, but he’s much more easygoing and laid back than his wild doppelgänger.
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.