U.S. researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Princeton University unveiled the secret of how cats lap water and milk with elegance, a phenomenon that happens so fast it cannot be observed by human eyes.
Cats are among the many species that, unlike humans, cannot close their mouths and create suction.
With help from high-speed video, researchers found that cats and larger felines like tigers balance gravity and inertia as they imbibe liquids. The research appears in the November 12th issue of the research journal Science.
Scientists already knew that when cats insert their tongues into a bowl of liquid, the top surface of the tongue touches the liquid first. This was first discovered by an MIT engineer who filmed a cat in 1940. However, by studying the images, researchers have determined that there is no ladling effect, but instead the cat’s tongue darts in and out so quickly that the action forms a column of liquid. The smooth top of the cat’s tongue barely brushes the surface of the liquid before the cat rapidly draws its tongue back up. As it does so, a column of liquid forms between the moving tongue and the liquid’s surface. The cat then closes its mouth, pinching off the column for a nice drink while keeping its chin dry–simple elegance.
The liquid column is created by a delicate balance between gravity and inertia. The cat instinctively knows just how quickly to lap in order to balance these two forces of physics and when to close its mouth. If the cat waits another fraction of a second, gravity overtakes inertia and the cat loses it drink. Cats average 4 laps per second, with each lap bringing in about 0.1 ml of liquid. Larger felines lap more slowly.
This report was filed by Sammy, the official feline of Amerika Now!
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