New Study - The Science of How Cats Drink
The study, which was published in Science, was the work of MIT associate professor Roman Stocker and his research team who captured hours of feline lapping footage. "The nice thing about it is that the cat laps with an impressive frequency of four times per second, so if you catch only a few seconds of lapping you have many laps," Stocker explains to NPR. The team also looked at YouTube videos of cats lapping (Watching YouTube videos of cats? That's a scientific method we can definitely get behind.), and even crafted a robotic version of a cat's tongue, according to an MIT article about the study.
Much of what was understood about the feline drinking action was informed by a 1940 film of a cat lapping milk, made by Harold "Doc" Edgerton, also an MIT professor. Edgerton showed how when cats lap, "they extend their tongues straight down toward the bowl and curl the tip of their tongues backwards, so that the top of the tongue touches the liquid first," as the MIT article describes.