Scientists elaborate the ‘physics’ behind how cats drink water without getting wet

Scientists elaborate the ‘physics’ behind how cats drink water without getting w

A new ‘cat-lapping’ study, recently published on the website of the journal Science, has unfolded the ‘physics’ associated with a cat’s ability to drink water without wetting its chin and whiskers.

The explanation that the four researchers associated with the study have forwarded is: the cat, effectively, is able to balance the forces of gravity against the forces of inertia, and thus quenches its thirst.

To figure out the mechanics of the drinking style of the cat, high-speed videos and mechanical gizmos were used by the four researchers - namely, Roman Stocker, an associate professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Jeffrey Aristoff, now at Princeton University; Sunghwan Jung, currently an engineer at Virginia Tech; and Pedro Reis, a physicist at MIT.

The researchers found that while dogs drink by dipping their tongues into liquids like ladles; cats touch the surface of the liquid only with the curled-back tip of their tongue. As such, when they draw back the tongue into their mouth, a thin column of the liquid is also drawn up. The cat then closes its mouth around that column; thus keeping its chin and whiskers pleasingly dry!

Talking about the findings of the study, Aristoff said: “What we found is that the cat uses fluid dynamics and physics in a way to absolutely optimize tongue lapping and water collection. Nobody had ever studied it before, so nobody knew how the water went from the bowl into the cat's mouth.”