Over the Hill

Sometimes, news triggers fun memories

The news is often deficits, deceit, disasters and disease. But I found a welcome change in The Tribune last month, a definitive dissertation on how cats lap up milk.

I had pondered that subject for almost 75 years.

I was 6 when I was given a kitten. I named him Tige. Everything about him fascinated me, including the way he drank.

He flicked the tip of his tongue into his milk and out again almost too fast to detect. It seemed unproductive, but I soon saw the saucer bottom through the milk.

I would lie on the floor with my face almost touching him to watch him drink. My 6-year-old eyes could focus that close. I saw the tip of his tongue repeatedly enter the bowl of milk and then emerge, curled rearward and upward.

It looked terribly inefficient.

I believed that drinking milk was the one thing I did better than he could.

The article in The Tribune last month said four scientists recently studied how cats drink liquids. They said it’s a battle between gravity and inertia. Inertia makes liquid adhere to the cat’s tongue. Then they quickly close their mouths before gravity can pull the liquid back.

The Internet had similar reports.

One said cats make four tongue flicks per second, each yielding 0.1 milliliter of liquid.

Elsewhere on the Internet I found videos of dogs drinking.

They do it the same way, but sloppier.

Tige matured much, much quicker than me, but we remained close. We sometimes retreated to a hidden nest in tall grass. There he listened while I complained of being misunderstood and frustrated.

Tige was an unaltered male. He was independent and could be savage.

Once, a squirrel climbed into a nail keg that contained the few walnuts I’d halfheartedly collected. Tige slunk up to the little keg and jumped in. I saw him begin his meal by biting off the squirrel’s head.

Tige wasn’t a house cat. He lived in our barn as much as in our house. Once, I saw barn swallows try to drive him out by diving at him. He hunkered down and swatted at them. He eventually nailed one in midflight.

Sometimes, we wouldn’t see him for days.

Then he’d show up with a scratched head and shredded ears. Once, the middle of his tail was chewed to the bone. The rear-most half eventually fell off.

I was never as brave and tough as Tige, but we always remained friends, and I always drank my milk quicker.

Reach Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.