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Why Is Your Cat Drinking Water So Weird? Facts & FAQ

Ever observed your cat drinking water and wondered why he drinks in such a strange way? Discover the scientific reasons, plus how much water your cat needs.

Written by: Denise LeBeau

Last Updated on January 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

A closeup of a cat drinking water and her tongue.

Why Is Your Cat Drinking Water So Weird? Facts & FAQ

Every cat parent knows one thing for sure about their cats: they are as mysterious as they are fascinating. And one of the weirdest things to observe is a cat drinking water. If you’ve ever wondered how your cat is able to drink water with such precision, you’re in good company. Scientists from one of the most acclaimed schools in the world wondered about that, too! So how, exactly, does your cat drink water?

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The mechanics of a cat drinking water

A ginger cat drinks water out of a small bowl.
A ginger cat drinks water out of a small bowl. Photography by Shutterstock.

According to MIT News, one of the first close observations of a cat drinking water was made in 1940. An electrical engineering professor used stop-action photography to capture how the cat’s tongue was making contact with the liquid. He observed that cats fold their tongues down and inwards so that they touch the water’s surface with the tops of their tongues.

Fast forward a few decades and scientists are still curious about cats drinking water. Only this time they used more advanced equipment to study their kitty subjects.

MIT’s Roman Stocker was curious about the way his cat was drinking. So, he filmed his cat drinking and slowed it down. He was surprised by the biomechanics of how his cat was overcoming gravity to get the liquid into his mouth. He found that the top of the cat’s tongue is the only thing that makes contact with the liquid.

Stocker and his colleague, Pedro Reis, further studied what was happening. Cats make a capital “J” with their tongues, touch the top of the liquid and pull it back to their mouths. This creates a column of liquid going up towards their mouth. They then close their mouths at the right time to drink before gravity thwarts their efforts.

Why cats drink water this way

Everything about the way your cat drinks is maximizing his ability to consume liquid efficiently. Since cats aren’t necessarily going to cooperate with their studies, the scientists were able to find out precisely how the mechanics of how your cat drinks by making a physical model. By using glass disks to recreate a cat’s tongue, they were able to further determine a mathematical equation that compared lapping frequency with the feline mass. Essentially, their findings conclude that larger cats lapped more slowly.

So, how much should your cat drink daily?  

According to PetMD, a 10-pound neutered cat eating 502 calories per day from dry food requires about a cup of water per day. That same cat on a diet of wet food should drink about 1/3 cup of water per day.

As cat parents, it’s important to determine if your cat is getting enough water. Skin elasticity, coat conditions and energy levels are good indicators. Not getting enough water can also result in dangerous medical conditions like urinary crystal formations.

Confused about how much water YOU should drink a day? See if the “eight glasses of water a day” saying is true >>

Is your cat drinking too much water?

Cats hide their pain, so one of the surest indicators that something is physically wrong is an uptick in their water consumption. While it’s hard to say exactly how much water is too much water for each cat if your kitty is making more trips to the water bowl than usual or seeking out water from sources usually left untapped, a trip to the vet is needed. says a cat drinking too much water could point to kidney issues, amyloidosis (a problem in metabolizing protein), diabetes mellitus or hyperthyroidism.

A cat drinking water is all about balance  

Paying attention to how much water your cat is drinking will alert you to the state of his health and well-being. Too much water might mean there’s a serious problem. Too little water can put your cat at risk for medical complications.

Plus, paying attention to how your cat is drinking water is also quite revealing. The way your cat drinks water is another example of the modern marvel your cat has evolved over time to become. He’s not just a stealthy hunter, he’s a stealthy drinker, too!

Thumbnail: Photography ©Oranit6666 | Thinkstock. 

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