|Maggie, refusing to cooperate for a photo shoot to illustrate this story.|
Turns out, when cats drink water, only the surface of their tongues skim the water. They generate just enough gravitational pull to create a column of water, which they then can happily sip without dipping their chins into the water.
This explains why my cats can drink water so politely while the dog leaves the water dish with a completely dripping head. Dogs don't have this technique mastered, and do have to dip their faces in the water dishes to take a drink.
Read the complete study here. See a slow-motion video of the researcher's subject cat, Cutta Cutta, here and a slow-motion video of a dog drinking here. The differences between the two techniques are striking.