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The Daily Need

Photo: Lapping it up

Photo: Dave Dugdale / www.learningdslrvideo.com

People with cats are well aware that they do things in their own special way. Now, researchers have discovered that their tongues are no different. One morning, while sharing breakfast with his cat Cutta Cutta, biophysicist Roman Stocker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge began to doubt the assumption that cats, like dogs, lap up water by curling their tongues into the shape of a ladle and scooping up the liquid.

With the help of high-speed cameras and some local shelter cats, Stocker and his team discovered that, unlike dogs, cats’ tongues don’t penetrate the surface of the water when drinking. Instead, the tip of the cats tongue rests on the waters surface. The water sticks to the tongue and when the cat draws its tongue back into its mouth, the water is pulled upward in a column. When the cat closes its mouth, it breaks the column. The lapping balances the water’s inertia (as it moves upward along with the tongue) and the pull of gravity (as it falls back into the bowl). Cats know how to lap faster than gravity can overtake inertia. The team’s findings were reported yesterday at sciencemag.org.

So: if our cats can casually master the physics behind gravity versus inertia, why do they still insist on practicing this impressive skill by drinking from the toilet? Because they can, I guess.

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