Cat Training and Behavior (Domestic and Feral)/cat behavior


Jennifer Lowe wrote at 2010-03-11 08:06:54
Actually, that's not just a quirk of her cat's. It's a well-documented cat behavior, though the reason for cats doing this is not known.

Kat wrote at 2011-07-12 02:15:20
Hi Susie - my cats both do this as well, so I'm not sure it is so uncommon!  I do not know the answer though - that's why I'm on here looking!

Kunming wrote at 2013-12-27 09:09:24
Many cats drink from the opposite side of the bowl. A study was done at a university about it. They found out, with a  slow motion camera, that unlike a dogs tongue, a cats tongue laps from the bottom. This creates a stream of water that the cat them swallows. Not all cats drink this way, but many do. In science jargon, it all has to do with the physics of gravity and inertia. Dogs just like to stick their snout in the bowl and lap the water up with their tongues. It's quite ingenious how the cat has developed a more efficient way of drinking. Sorry dog lovers... Just goes to show you how smart cats are! And so much neater.

Kunming wrote at 2013-12-27 09:21:27
It is a mystery that has long puzzled cat lovers: exactly how do their feline companions lap up liquids so elegantly?

Now, with the help of high-speed cameras and a pet cat, a team of researchers think they have the answer.

They found that cats use their tongues to delicately draw up water without breaking the surface of the liquid.

The scientists, who published their study in the journal Science, say this differs from dogs, who employ a messy scooping action to quench their thirst.

The team thinks cats may have adopted this more complex but neater approach because it means they are less likely to be splashed with water as they drink.

Feline physics

Dr Roman Stocker, a biophysicist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, was inspired to investigate the physics of cat laps after watching his own pet Cutta Cutta as it drank.

"I realised there was an interesting biomechanics problem hidden behind that very simple action. The project then snowballed from there," he said.

Working with researchers from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Princeton University, Dr Stocker trained a high-speed camera on his cat.

While humans and animals such as sheep or horses use suction to draw liquid upwards, and dogs curl their tongue into a cup-like shape to ladle liquid in, the footage revealed that cats use a more subtle mechanism to drink.

The scientists found that the tip of the cat's tongue curls backwards, not forwards, as it darts down towards its bowl.

Then, instead of penetrating the surface of the liquid, the tongue just lightly touches it.

The study was inspired by Cutta Cutta the cat

Dr Stocker explains: "The fluid comes in contact with the tongue and sticks to it, then the action of the tongue being drawn upwards very rapidly creates a liquid column.

"Then, by closing its jaw, the cat captures part of that liquid."

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that the tiny hairs on the tongue, which were once thought to help cats lap, were not involved at all in the process.

To look at the mechanism in even more detail, the team created a robotic cat tongue. They found the process was down to an interplay between two forces: inertia and gravity.

Dr Stocker explained: "The creation of the water column is driven by the force inertia - the tendency of the liquid, once in motion, to keep going.

"The water column initially becomes larger in length and in volume, but at some point the weight of the column itself overcomes these inertial forces, and gravity causes the column to collapse back into the bowl."

Because of this, the cat's timing when lapping is crucial.

"There is a time when the volume of a column is at a maximum, which is at the time at which the cat closes its jaw," Dr Stocker said.

Cats vs dogs

By studying zoo animals and YouTube footage, the researchers also discovered that big cats such as tigers, leopards and cheetahs also used the same mechanism as their domestic cousins.

Dogs use their tongues to drink in a different way to cats

But Dr Stocker and his colleagues are not sure why felines have developed this sophisticated drinking mechanism, but they suspect it could be down to their dislike of water.

He explained: "The lapping mechanism of cats seems to be a lot cleaner compared with dogs, which is much more vigorous and produces more splash.

"One speculation is the face of the cat, and particularly the region around the nose and the whiskers, is extremely sensitive, therefore the cat might want to try and keep that as dry as possible."

Cat Training and Behavior (Domestic and Feral)

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Dear Tabbi


My expertise is in helping people understand their cat (or cats) and their behavior. Questions are welcome even if you don't have a cat....just a question about them. Hopefully my experience, suggestions, and comments will be of help to you...and your cat (or cats). Looking through my past responses to questions will give you additional information and/or answers too. Domestic Cats = cats (no matter what breed) who are tame or not wild, or abandoned cats who were pets that became wild, but can be tamed again. Ferals = cats who are born with one or more parents who were wild stray cats. They usually have had no interactions with people. They have an inbred distrust of humans and are difficult to socialize. They are skittish, hide, and are afraid of people. They take a lot of time and patience to work with them. A lot of kittens from shelters had a feral parent.


Since I was a child, over 45 years, I have been owned by a LOT of cats and kittens of almost every temperament, behavior, and personality. I have had experience with neurotic, disabled (including blind), stray, and 'problem child' cats and kittens. (A few normal cats too!) Plus all the things a lifetime of owning cats and research has taught me. I also have experience in feral cat behavior (which is different from domestic cats), and some experience with feral colonies that includes colony feeding and feral cat TNR (trap/neuter/release).


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