Study reveals physics of how cats drink.

September 13, 2018

Study reveals physics of how cats drink.

On Nov. 25, 2014, reporter Sharon Begley of Reuters wrote, "Popular web videos showing that "cats rule and dogs drool" have new scientific evidence to support that felinophilic sentiment, at least when it comes to drinking."

That same year, physicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) uncovered the physics of how cats drink.


Physics of cat drinking.

Neither cats nor dogs drink like people. Human beings along with other large mammals such as elephants and horses can create suction thanks to having a full set of cheeks.

Dogs, however, curl their tongues backward at a rapid pace to drink. Researchers at Virginia Tech University realized that a dog's approach creates such momentum that it forms a column of water and forces it into the dog's mouth. It's a sloppy, sloshy, messy affair that dog lovers find adorable.

Initially, researchers thought cats drank the same way but more politely.

“We know cats and dogs are quite different in terms of behavior and character,” said Sunghwan “Sunny” Jung, one of the researchers“But before we did fundamental studies of how these animals drink fluids, our guess was dogs and cats drink about the same way. Instead, we found out that dogs drink quite differently than cats."

Unlike dogs, cats flick their tongues onto the water. The top part of the tongue is all that touches the surface, never breaking the surface tension. Cats pull water from the surface into their mouths, closing those mouths at a rate of four times per second to prevent gravity from pulling the water back into the bowl.

Cats instinctively time the precise moment that inertia overcomes gravity, and that's when they trap the water inside their mouths.

A cat's drinking force is only twice the strength of gravity, meaning he drinks more elegantly than a dog who generates a force eight times that of gravity to get a drink. And since a dog's entire tongue cuts through the water, large dog breeds famously drool water while smaller dogs and cats keep it in or near the bowl.


Cat drinking fountain reviews.

Cats enjoy drinking fresh, flowing water. You can give kitty a refreshing sip from a dripping faucet, or you can purchase a cat drinking fountain to make feline beverages more entertaining.

Business Insider did a great article on the best cat fountains you can buy. Their insider pick went to the PetSafe Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain.

Your cat may enjoy one of these or any free flowing water source you can recreate in your home.


Should I worry if my cat is drinking lots of water?

Most cats stay hydrated through a moist diet and rarely drink as much as dogs or many other domesticated animals. If your pet is guzzling water, it may or may not be something to worry about.

A lot kitties enjoy drinking socially so if another cat is lapping up liquids, they'll join in. Others drink due to consuming dry kibble instead of moist food. And some cats just seem to enjoy playing with water.

Excessive drinking can signal the presence of a disease like diabetes or kidney disease, however, so if you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian right away.


Cats who lap up milk, alcohol, or worse.

Although cats traditionally get pictured lapping up bowls of cow's milk, dairy products actually make most cats sick. While kittens can handle the sugars in milk, most adult cats are lactose intolerant.

No responsible pet owner would ever intentionally slip beer, wine, or spirits to a dog or cat. These animals have small bodies, different systems for ridding their bodies of toxins, and very low tolerance for alcohol. It isn't funny to intoxicate an animal. It's dangerous.

Sometimes, however, a cat accidentally gets into the liquor. What do you do then? 

Give your cat plenty of water to drink and contact your vet because even a small amount of alcohol can be fatal to a house cat.

In fact, if your cat decides to quench his thirst and his curiosity with paints, dyes, detergents, mouthwash, or any substance other than pure water, contacting the vet is always a good idea. The SPCA's Animal Poison Control Center answers 167,000 calls annually, and it has released a free app to help pet parents prevent or reverse animal poisonings.

In general, cats are not heavy drinkers, and when they do imbibe, they do so with class, intelligence, and mystery. Make sure your cat is sipping only the freshest, cleanest water, and you can enjoy a healthy, happy animal's companionship for many years.  

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