At the center of the definition of a liquid is an action: A material must be able to modify its form to fit within a container. The action must also have a characteristic duration. In rheology this is called the relaxation time. Determining if something is liquid depends on whether it’s observed over a time period that’s shorter or longer than the relaxation time.

If we take cats as our example, the fact is that they can adapt their shape to their container if we give them enough time. Cats are thus liquid if we give them the time to become liquid. In rheology, the state of a material is not really a fixed property – what must be measured is the relaxation time. What is its value and on what does it depend? For example, does the relaxation time of a cat vary with its age? (In rheology we speak of thixotropy.)