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How Do Cats Drink Water? Vet-Approved Facts

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on May 30, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Cat drinking from ceramic bowl

How Do Cats Drink Water? Vet-Approved Facts


Dr. Amanda Charles Photo


Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Have you ever watched a cat drink water before? It’s not something many people think too much about, but it’s truly an amazing feat of physics that requires perfect timing and balancing inertia with gravity. Sounds unbelievable?

Keep reading to learn how cats drink and watch videos exhibiting their unique drinking style.

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How Do Cats Drink?

High-speed videos made by researchers recently found that the only part of a cat’s tongue that touches the surface of the liquid they’re drinking is the very top.

The lapping technique involves their tongues touching the liquid’s surface just barely before returning to the mouth. The tip of the tongue is the only part that touches the water’s surface, and it does so lightly that it doesn’t even break the surface tension. As the tongue returns, a column of liquid forms between it and the water’s surface. They catch this little jet of liquid in a flash and start all over.

This drinking method requires that they lap at the right speed to balance the inertial force, keeping the water moving upward with gravity, which pulls the water back. One of the most interesting parts of this discovery is that cats seem to instinctively know how rapidly they need to lap to balance the inertial force of the water with gravity.

cat drinking water
Image By: rihaij, Pixabay

What About Wild Cats?

You might be surprised to learn that your domesticated cats’ wild counterparts (for example, lions and tigers) drink the same way, with one stark difference.

Researchers created a robotic tongue to mimic how a cat drinks. The “tongue” was a glass disk that could be controlled to move at different rates, allowing researchers to calculate how much water was ingested with every lap. Interestingly, the model allowed researchers to predict that the larger the cat is, the slower it would need to lap to strike that fine balance between inertia and gravity.

And researchers were right. The videos that they took of big cats drinking showed them lapping less than twice per second, compared to the four laps domestic cats could take in the same time frame.

How Do Dogs Drink?

Neither dogs nor cats drink like humans do. They can’t suck water into their mouths as we do. Like cats, dogs use their tongues to scoop water into their mouths. However, dogs thrust their entire tongue into their water dish much faster than cats, who gently dip their tongues into the water’s surface. It is this careless plunging of the tongue that makes dogs much messier at drinking than their feline counterparts.

Additionally, a cat’s drinking force is twice the strength of gravity, which is why they appear to drink much more elegantly than dogs, who generate a force eight times that of gravity when drinking.

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Final Thoughts

Cats are much more refined drinkers than their canine counterparts, and hopefully, our blog has shown you the exact differences between how cats and dogs drink. Watch your cat closely next time he goes to take a drink so you can truly appreciate the physics at work.

Related Read:

Featured Image Credit: Pattysan, Shutterstock

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