How Dogs Drink Water Compared to Cats

In this article we discuss and compare how cats and dogs drink water. For better understanding we also include two slow motion videos to show the difference.

how dogs drink water
A German shepherd lapping up water to drink.

We have all seen a dog drinking but few of us really know how dogs actually drink. For starters, dogs seem to make a mess every time they drink! On the other hand, cats seem to be very petite and clean drinkers. Let us see why this is so.

How Dogs Drink Water

Dogs cannot suck up fluids like we can. This is partly due to the way their cheeks are and partly due to the shape of their mouth. As a result, dogs had to come up with another way to drink water.

Some people think that dogs lick the water and curl their tongue forward when they drink. However, dogs do the exact opposite! Dogs curl their tongue backwards while dipping it in the water and then quickly pull it up. This whole movement is called lapping. You can clearly observe this motion in the video below.

Why Dogs spill Water when Drinking

It is a well known fact that dogs tend to make a mess when they drink water. The inexperienced person may think that dogs are clumsy, sloppy and uncoordinated. However as we saw in the clip above, you cannot really blame dogs for splashing some water around when they drink.

When dogs lap water up, they are bound to spill some!

How Cats Drink Water

Cats, like dogs, cannot suck up fluids. You may think that cats drink in the same way as dogs do. However cats drink is totally different way.

Cats have fine hairs on their tongue that make the surface coarser than the tongues of dogs. When cats drink they merely touch the liquid with the top of their tongue and literally lick it up gently. It is as if they scrape the surface of the liquid with their tongue. The coarser tongue surface pulls the liquid up by capillary action. This is what makes cats neater drinkers.

Important: Change your Cat’s water everyday!!

It is very important to change your cat’s water on a daily basis. Cats are pickier than dogs and will not drink if the water is not fresh. If you intend to be away for a few days, you could leave your cat a big food bowl and a water tap dripping in a water bowl in the kitchen sink or outside in the garden so that you car has fresh water all the time.

However, if you plan to be away for a longer period you may need someone to check on your cat and make sure that everything is fine. If that is the case you may be interested to read about the Cat Home Visiting service that we offer.

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Written by:


Hi I'm Matthew. I am a scientist by profession with particular interest in canine behaviour.

I take time to deliver weekly blog posts relating to various interesting topics about our pets. I am also responsible for our Dog Walking Service and Pet House Sitting Service at Pet Sitting Algarve.