Click here to view CMI's position on climate change.
This article is from
Creation 35(1):56, January 2012

Browse our latest digital issue Subscribe

How cats drink milk without wetting their chins



Researchers have discovered the precise physical mechanism that enables cats to lap up liquids.1,2 It had earlier been thought that they curled their tongue backwards to make a J-shaped curve, and thus ‘ladle’ the fluid into their mouths. But this latest study shows a cat’s tongue actually performs the equivalent of complex mathematical equations to keep two opposing forces in perfect equilibrium.

High-speed digital video shows that only the tip of the upper surface of the cat’s tongue is brought into direct contact with the milk. The cat then rapidly retracts its tongue, drawing a column of milk towards its mouth until the inertia of the column is exactly balanced by the force of gravity pulling it back towards the bowl. That’s when the cat closes its mouth over the top of the column of milk floating in mid-air, snaring its drink.

A domestic cat’s tongue moves at a speed of about one metre per second, lapping about four times a second, with each lap capturing about 0.1 millilitres. Lions and tigers have a lower lapping frequency to maintain the balance between gravity and inertia, maximizing the amount of fluid their larger tongues can capture with each lap.

The researchers were both surprised and delighted at the finding. Sunghwan Jung of Virginia Tech said, “At the beginning of the project we weren’t fully confident that fluid mechanics played a role in cats’ drinking. But as the project went on, we were surprised and amused by the beauty of the fluid mechanics involved in this system.”2,3

References and notes

  1. Reis, P., Jung, S., Aristoff, J. and Stocker, R., How cats lap: water uptake by Felis catus, Science 330(6008):1231–1234, 2010. Return to text.
  2. Connor, S., Why the cat that gets the cream is smarter than we thought it was, www.independent.co.uk, 12 November 2010. Return to text.
  3. For many more examples of the beauty of design features in nature see Sarfati, J., By Design: Evidence for nature’s Intelligent Designer—the God of the Bible, Creation Book Publishers, 2008. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Kenn D.
How did they ever survive long enough for evolution to get them to this point. Maybe they had straws to use until they evolved. ;-)
Dave R.
I simply lap up CMI articles -- via my laptop!
Mike J.
People can find videos of this on YouTube.
Thomas J.
Actually the amazing matter here is the transference of wonder from the Creator to the creature. Even the title of one of the cited articles locates the intelligence in the cat, not in the cat's designer. We see much the same thing when we wonder at some remarkably complex automatic machine. We get lost in the apprehension of the clever display and disregard the designer. Really no one should ever consider that the cat rationalized all the elements of hydrodynamic principles to perform an action necessary to survive. Even many believers succumb to the same error. Let the name of the Lord be praised in heaven and on the earth for He has done marvelously!
john P.
This is yet another example of God's wonderful and ingenious designs in His creation. Cats are interesting to watch when they drink. They are clever little animals, much more intelligent than chimps, the idols of the evolutionists, and far better looking!

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.