Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why are dogs sloppier drinkers than cats?” you ask? Honestly, this question was set aside because other questions seemed more interesting. As it turns out though, it’s become quite a timely topic. (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why do some animals use their tongues as washcloths?”)
For those of you who have never owned cats and dogs, both animals lap up water with their tongues but dogs are indeed sloppier drinkers. We need look no further than a recent presentation given at the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics Meeting in San Francisco, California to find our answer.
Research reveals that cats and dogs are incapable of sucking liquids into their mouths like people can because their cheeks reportedly facilitate a four-legged predator’s lifestyle. (Yeah, yeah, dogs are actually omnivores but their ancestors preyed predominantly on hoofed creatures.)
Research has also shown that cats drink using a two-part process. Jennifer Viegas , a pets writer for News Discovery explains the process consists “of an elegant plunge and pull, in which a cat gently places its tongue on the water’s surface and then rapidly withdraws it, creating a column of water underneath (its) retracting tongue.”
Sunny Jung, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech, confessed: “When we started this project, we thought that dogs drink similarly to cats. But it turns out that it’s different, because dogs smash their tongues on the water surface—they make lots of splashing — but a cat never does that.”
The researchers established that when a dog withdraws its tongue from water a significant amount of acceleration—approximately five times greater than gravity—creates a water column that flows into its mouth. Using cameras Jung and company determined that the tip of a dog’s tongue is almost ladle-like. When it is full of water the dog must open its mouth more in order to actually drink which adds to the splashing.
They created models to simulate how a dog’s tongue works. Mimicking how a dog drinks allowed them to measure the amount of water removed from the bowl. Their study revealed that the column of water pinches off then detaches from the water bowl because of gravity. A dog also closes its mouth immediately before the column of water falls back into the water bowl.
Why are dogs sloppier drinkers than cats? Now you know.
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