Nov 13 2010

Cat Got Your Tongue?

(10 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

No? OK, but apparently four engineers from prestigious universities using integral calculus, high speed photography and borrowed equipment from the International Space Station, curious about how cats drink figured out just how our feline companions and their larger counterparts in the wild lap it up. It isn’t what you would think, after all, cats are not dogs.

For Cats, a Big Gulp With a Touch of the Tongue

Cats lap water so fast that the human eye cannot follow what is happening, which is why the trick had apparently escaped attention until now. With the use of high-speed photography, the neatness of the feline solution has been captured.

Writing in the Thursday issue of Science, the four engineers report that the cat’s lapping method depends on its instinctive ability to calculate the point at which gravitational force would overcome inertia and cause the water to fall.

What happens is that the cat darts its tongue, curving the upper side downward so that the tip lightly touches the surface of the water.

The tongue is then pulled upward at high speed, drawing a column of water behind it.

Just at the moment that gravity finally overcomes the rush of the water and starts to pull the column down – snap! The cat’s jaws have closed over the jet of water and swallowed it.

The cat laps four times a second – too fast for the human eye to see anything but a blur – and its tongue moves at a speed of one meter per second. . . .

At first, Dr. Stocker and his colleagues assumed that the raspy hairs on a cat’s tongue, so useful for grooming, must also be involved in drawing water into its mouth. But the tip of the tongue, which is smooth, turned out to be all that was needed.

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