Cat Science1
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11/14/10

 

 

I'm Marlin Perkins and this is Mutual of Omaha's WILD KINGDOM.

Did I fool you? Actually my name is Happy and I have some scientific information today for all you readers that think that cats are just dumb animals that drink by lapping up liquids.

When we're very young, our moms teach us all about surface tension and inertia and gravity and lots of physical science principles that we need to know. You thought cat-like reflexes just happened by magic? Recently some curious scientists at some Big Name Universities studied how cats drink. Here's the interesting part of the study:



Study reveals the subtle dynamics
underpinning how cats drink (w/ Video)

(PhysOrg.com) -- Cat fanciers everywhere appreciate the gravity-defying grace and exquisite balance of their feline friends. But do they know those traits extend even to the way cats lap milk?

Researchers at MIT, Virginia Tech and Princeton University analyzed the way domestic and big cats lap and found that felines of all sizes take advantage of a perfect balance between two physical forces. The results will be published in the November 11 online issue of the journal Science.

It was known that when they lap, cats extend their tongues straight down toward the bowl with the tip of the tongue curled backwards like a capital "J" to form a ladle, so that the top surface of the tongue actually touches the liquid first. We know this because another MIT engineer, the renowned Doc Edgerton, who first used strobe lights in photography to stop action, filmed a domestic cat lapping milk in 1940.

But recent high-speed videos made by this team clearly revealed that the top surface of the cat's tongue is the only surface to touch the liquid. Cats, unlike dogs, aren't dipping their tongues into the liquid like ladles after all. Instead, the cat's lapping mechanism is far more subtle and elegant. The smooth tip of the tongue barely brushes the surface of the liquid before the cat rapidly draws its tongue back up. As it does so, 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 for a nice drink, while keeping its chin dry.

The liquid column, it turns out, is created by a delicate balance between gravity, which pulls the liquid back to the bowl, and inertia, which in physics, refers to the tendency of the liquid or any matter, to continue moving in a direction unless another force interferes. The cat instinctively knows just how quickly to lap in order to balance these two forces, and just when to close its mouth. If it waits another fraction of a second, the force of gravity will overtake inertia, causing the column to break, the liquid to fall back into the bowl, and the cat's tongue to come up empty.

While the domestic cat averages about four laps per second, with each lap bringing in about 0.1 milliliters of liquid, the big cats, such as tigers, know to slow down. They naturally lap more slowly to maintain the balance of gravity and inertia.

The article continues at the physorg website...
 

Well, are you impressed?

You never knew that we cats were doing
science tricks at the water bowl, did you?

Remember to show some proper respect.

 

 

Our next science presentation will be acrobatics in the litter box, which will be produced and narrated by Annabelle.