Scientists Discover How Cats Drink, After 4 Years of Research and High-Speed Photography

Click to viewFor the last several years, four professors from prestigious institutions have been looking for the answer to a simple question: how does a cat drink? This high-speed footage helped them figure it out.

Dogs use their tongues like ladles, sloppily carrying water up from the bowl to their mouths and often getting their chins and snouts wet in the process. Cats, dainty creatures that they are, have devised a way to beat gravity and drink water without making a mess.

The cat curls the tip of its tongue underneath itself and then lightly touches the liquid with the tongue's surface. It then jerks its tongue up, snapping a column of water up along with it. The cat drinks the stream before gravity has a chance to pull it back down—a process it can perform four times a second. "What we found is that the cat uses fluid dynamics and physics in a way to absolutely optimize tongue lapping and water collection," one of the researchers said. "Cats are just smarter than dogs from the point of view of fluid mechanics," trolled another.

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Apparently no one knew quite how this whole thing worked until now, which is kinda weird, because it seems kinda obvious? Anyway, It was four years ago that MIT professor Roman Stocker grew curious about how his cat was drinking, and, along with three colleagues and a borrowed high-speed camera, he's been researching the cat-lap ever since. Visits to zoos confirmed that all cats, even the real big ones, drink by snapping up columns of liquid, though with their huge tongues lions only have to lap roughly two times a second. The researchers aren't sure what application this newfound understanding might have, thought they suggest it could eventually be useful in robotics, because, hey, why not. [Wired via WaPo]

Image credit Maciente