London, Nov 12 (IANS) Unlike dogs, who messily slurp water using their tongues as crude ladles, cats have evolved a sophisticated and super-efficient technique for sucking up liquids, say scientists.
Researchers made the discovery after studying high speed footage of domestic and zoo cats drinking from bowls, reports the Daily Mail.
It has long been known that when cats drink, they extend their tongues towards the bowl with the tip curled backwards like a capital J so that the top of the tongue touches the liquid first, according to the journal Science.
But using high speed videos, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Virginia Tech and Princeton University, found that the smooth tip of the tongue is the only part to touch the liquid.
The smooth tip brushes the surface of the liquid before the cat quickly withdraws its tongue. As it does, a column of milk forms between the moving tongue and the liquid’s surface.
The cat then closes its mouth, pinching off the top of the column to drink while keeping its chin dry.
Domestic cats, jaguars, lions and tigers instinctively know how to lap in order to balance these two forces perfectly and when to close their mouth.
A domestic cat typically laps four times a second – with each lap sucking in 0.1 ml milk or water, according to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Virginia Tech and Princeton University.
Mathematician Jeffrey Aristoff of Princeton University said: ‘Our research suggests the cat chooses the speed in order to maximise the amount of liquid ingested per lap. This suggests that cats are smarter than many people think, at least when it comes to hydrodynamics.’