Science has gone to the…cats?

Full disclosure: I’m a dog person. (So is Sascha.) I love their exuberance. Excessive tail wags radiate into full body wiggles. At dinnertime, table  manners are optional as they snarf their food.

And then there are cats. From my cat-ownership experience, felines are completely aloof and obsessed with cleanliness. They eat dinner one nugget at a time and drink daintily, tongues lightly touching the surface of the water.

So how do cats manage to get any liquid to their mouths? Enter scientists with high speed video cameras hunting for an answer.

Experiments often look at models and then explore the real system. This video shows the opposite–the model helps to explain the real system. First, you see a cat drinking. A column of water grows by inertia as the feline pulls its tongue into its mouth. The cat closes its mouth before the column breaks apart. The flat disk represents the surface of a cat’s tongue.  It also creates a column of water as it rises.

For more details about the interplay of gravity and inertia, check out the news release.

UPDATE: There’s not much deep science to a dog’s scooping method of drinking. But it still looks cool.

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7 Responses to Science has gone to the…cats?

  1. Donna Hesterman says:

    Oh, thank you, thank you… That’s the stuff I love.

  2. Keith R says:

    Cats rule, dogs drool.

    Seriously, I loved this research.

    You can check out some other materials from this study at our new facebook project, Goofy Science. While you are there, you can learn about the physics and medicine of headbanging.

  3. szubryd says:

    Yes, I am a dog person. Dozer, my English bulldog puppy, was so cute when he was learning to drink. First he just stuck his face in the water and sort of inhaled. Then he figured out that he should use his tongue, but he wasn’t sure how, so he just licked it and water went everywhere. Now he knows the back-curl trick. Smart puppy.

  4. sly says:

    When will science explain this?

  5. Melissae says:

    I think most things about cats defy logical explanation. How can you move without moving?

    • Keith R. says:

      Now the Knight Science Tracker has added commentary and links to some good writing about this.

      Be sure to note (Not Rocket Science‘s) Ed Yong’s, comment explaining the richness of the story. Not simply another ‘charismatic megafauna’ attempt at attracting eyeballs, there’s a lot there science motivated by the purest of inspirations. Yong said it very well in his blog post’s kicker: “If you look at the world through the eye of a scientist, even an unassuming sight like a cat drinking from a bowl can be a cool discovery just waiting to happen. Rather than killing cats, curiosity can thrive on them.”

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