The Physics of a Drinking Cat


Cat DrinkingDuring demonstrations for the MIT150 Institute-wide “Open House” on April 30, MIT faculty shared their story of a cat named Cutta Cutta, who inspired them to study the physics of how cats lap.

Pedro Reis, of Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), and Roman Stocker, of CEE, represented MIT on the interdisciplinary team, which included researchers from Princeton and Virginia Tech.

They analyzed high-speed video of domestic cats, including Stocker’s family cat, as well as a range of larger felines, such as ocelots and tigers. In what could be a first for a paper published in Science, they gathered additional data by analyzing YouTube videos of big cats lapping.

Earlier insights into the way cats lap were revealed in a 1940 film made by Harold “Doc” Edgerton, the MIT electrical engineering professor who first used strobe lights in photography to stop action. Video from this new study makes clear that the top of the cat’s tongue is the only surface to touch the liquid—and that it barely touches the surface before the cat draws its tongue back up. The team’s findings: Cats expertly balance the physical ingredients of gravity and inertia while drinking milk at four laps per second.meche logo

Read the full MIT News article.