What Food Can Cats Taste?
So we have talked about what foods cats can and cannot eat. And while there are a lot of foods that are safe for cats to eat, the next question to ask is, what foods can cats taste?
Like humans, cats are responsive to four basic tastes: sour, bitter, salt, and sweet.
Being strict carnivores, their response to “sweet” is much weaker than ours. Though every cat is unique.
As the cat’s most powerful response to food is through their sense of smell, not taste.
So if you ever see your cat smelling your food and walking away, they could already know they don’t like it! Crazy isn’t it?!
They have acute hearing, eyesight that is wired for motion and darkness, and a highly sensitive sense of smell.
If we want to do the math compared to humans. Humans have 9,000 taste buds, while cats have only 473.
Think of all the flavors they have no idea even exist!
A Cat’s Sense of Taste
Cats are carnivores, which means too keep them happy and healthy, meat should be their main source of food. Over time, the thought is that their taste buds have evolved.
They have evolved based on what they need to survive. So because cats needs protein, not carbohydrates, there is not a large need to taste sweetness. have no need to detect sweet tastes.
I mean what meat really has a naturally sweet taste? I can’t think of any.
Tastes That Cats Can Experience
So we already know that cats cannot taste sweetness. What about the other four flavors?
Despite having fewer taste buds than other animals, scientists have been able to infer that cats can taste sour, bitter, salty, and umami flavor.
Umami flavor is a flavor found in most meats. Which is likely due to cats high sense of smell.
When it comes to bitter tastes, cats seem to have an advantage.
Although they have the same number of bitter taste receptors as humans, seven of these seem to have become highly developed.
The ability to taste bitterness helps cats stay away from toxins in the wilderness. Many of which are known to be bitter in taste. (Not that I recommend trying any of these to find out).
Tastes That Cats Can’t Experience
Being strict carnivores, we have already talked about their lack of “sweetness”. Oh, I mean that in their sense of taste not behavior.
*Pausing to let everyone groan*
But in reality, their response to “sweet” is much weaker than ours, almost to non-existence .
It is scientifically accepted that cats do not experience sweetness the way humans and dogs do because they lack an important taste receptor gene that enables the brain to recognize sweet tastes.
Taste receptors are proteins in the cells of the taste buds that enable the brain to recognize certain flavors. In a study published in 2006, researchers identified the DNA sequences and examined the structures of the 2 known genes that encode the sweet taste receptor.
What did they find?
Essentially, cats only seem to have one of the two known taste receptors that detect sweetness.
In general, cats do not seem to be able to taste or enjoy sweet flavors. Having only one of the two sweet taste receptors may mean that cats can detect some sweetness at very high concentrations, but they are unable to fully experience it in the way humans and many other mammals do.
Now, does this always stop them from eating things that are sweet? NOPE!
I have to cats that I have CAUGHT licking the icing off of a cupcake. (And icing is my favorite part of the cupcake…so you can only imagine my disappointment.)
Foods Cats Prefer
Do cats have a favor “taste”?
As a rule, cats crave meat and other animal products. Which means naturally the umami flavor will be something cats gravitate towards.
Many cats will enjoy snacking on other kinds of foods; they may try to eat your sweet snacks, even if they cannot fully taste the sweetness.
Insert the cupcake travesty that I have to relive.
Sometimes I am convinced cats think they like something because they see their human eating it.
If mom and dad like it, then I has to be good enough for me!
This just proves the stereotype that cats don’t follow the rules!
What Foods Can I Give Cats?
If you want to read all the different foods that are safe for cats, check out ‘What Foods Can Cats Eat?”
In short, even though your cat may want to eat these “odd” foods for them, doesn’t mean they should become a staple in their diet.
A cat’s main source of food should be meat and protein.
And treats are great for just that, an occasional treat!