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How Do Cats Drink Water?

Updated: August 9, 2022 by Kristen Chapple

For sure you’re amazed by the grace and balance with which a cat moves and leaps around, but have you ever wondered how do cats drink water?

Though it seems so simple and most of us would think that our feline friends are curling their tongues and using them as cups to try lapping as much water into their mouths as possible, that is not the way they do it. They’re doing it so fast that we can’t even perceive it.

Too Fast For Us to Grasp the Movement

We all think that we know how cats drink water, but the truth is that the way they do it is way too fast for us to grasp the technique.

A cat can lap four times a second, which means that when cats drink water, we don’t see anything else with naked eye but a blurred movement of the kitty’s tongue. So no, nobody really understood the mechanism until some MIT engineers put their minds to work. It took high-speed photography and more than 3 years to understand that.

How Do Cats Drink Water

Unlike us, humans, who can create suction in order to get the liquid into our mouths, cats can’t do that so they use fluid mechanics to drink water in an efficient way.

When above the bowl of water, or milk, a cat’s tongue will take the shape of the letter ‘J’, touch the water with its tip flicking back to the surface and then pull back so fast that it will cause a stream of water to follow the tongue back into the mouth due to inertia and the forces of adhesion and cohesion that form on the water’s – or any other liquid’s – surface. Then the cat closes its mouth before gravity can pull the water back down to the bowl.

The speed at which cats drink water is 3 feet per second, which is why you won’t see the actual movement happening, unless recorded by special cameras and played in slow motion, like the guys at MIT have done in this YouTube video here.


Maximum Efficiency

According to the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the 3 feet per second speed at which cats drink water is already the speed at which they can get the most water with the lowest effort, bringing the kitty to the maximum water drinking efficiency.

If before you were impressed by how funny your little purring friend was, now you should be fascinated by his fluid dynamics and mechanical engineering skills and water drinking efficiency.

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