True fact: Your CAT wees ... like a racehorse

Science finally admits it's been taking the piss all along

Angry-looking cat. Pic by  Guyon Morée from Beverwijk, Netherlands. licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Racehorses have long been noted for the prodigious length of their - wait for it - toilet breaks. Yet boffins have claimed that all animals actually wee for the same amount of time, demolishing equines' much-vaunted status as the greatest urinators on Planet Earth.

Researchers measured dozens of species to find that all animals above 3kg in weight wee for a rough average of 21 seconds.

David Hu, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said he was inspired to perform the experiments after changing a baby's nappy.

“I was thinking, ‘How could anything be worse right now?’” Hu said. “And I thought, ‘Well, maybe if I was changing an elephant’s diaper it would be really bad.’”

This got him wondering how much fluid animals actually emitted when they went to the toilet, so he headed straight down to Zoo Atlanta to start measuring a variety of animals' excretions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was not an easy task.

"We ended up cutting sections of soda bottles, because it has to be something you can hold by hand, and just at a second's notice go on your hands and knees and hold it in the right position," Hu recalled . "Everything else we tried failed. We tried pans - they don't like pans, they think it's weird. We tried pads - they don't like pads, they think it's weird."

He was surprised to see that the size of the bladder didn't have a massive effect on the length of the wee, taking an average of 21 seconds, allowing for a difference of 13 seconds either way. It might sound inexact, but if you consider that an elephant's bladder is 3,600 times larger than that of a mouse, then the 13 second allowance doesn't seem so large.

The secret lies in the urethra, which keeps the flow running smoothly. It turns out a long and wider urethra results in faster flow, meaning a large animal unleashes its urine at a comparable rate to a smaller one.

The report is called Duration of urination does not change with body size and is published in the aptly named PNAS, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. ®

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