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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

Cats have a very good nose and it is easy for them to find a source of food. But what about the sense of taste? Some cats are known to be very choosy eaters, but some make no difference between their own cat food and grandma’s homemade schnitzel. What may truly be a horror for us humans can be a feast for the palate of some cats. But why? To what extent does the taste of cats differ from that of humans?

What do cats taste?

Smell and taste are connected, that is no longer a big secret. Since cats are superior to us in smelling, one would therefore assume that our beloved cats are also ahead of us in taste. Anatomically, we humans have more taste buds on our tongue. Cats have about 500, humans up to 9000 of these taste receptors, which is a huge difference. 

Humans have four different types of taste buds that allow them to distinguish sweet, sour, bitter and salty foods, plus special taste buds that are responsible for the taste of fat and meat (umami). Unlike humans, cats don’t have buds for sweet on the tongue, but they do have water receptors that recognize the freshness of the water (change water regularly!). However, the flavours salty, bitter, sour and umami are known to them. Dogs also have the ability to taste sweet, which is because dogs are not pure carnivores, but omnivores. Cats, on the other hand, are pure carnivores.  

Sense of taste

This is already formed in the womb. What the mother eats during pregnancy is more likely to be accepted later. It also plays a role what and how much the kittens get to know. If they are confronted with a wider range of food, they are as an adult animal rather not critical when eating, they get to know only a little later everything exactly what migrates into the mouth is checked. With age, the sense of taste decreases.

Fact is, whether it tastes good to a cat or not depends on different factors. Not only the smell, but also the consistency and shape of the food, the freshness and the temperature play a significant role.  

napani Knabber Zeit - Hühnerleber gefriergetrocknet für Hunde & Katzen, 150g

Gefriergetrocknete Hühnerleber, Belohnungshappen für Hunde & Katzen, 150g

Can cats taste bitter and spicy?

Cats don’t like bitter compounds. However, these are perceived by them only in larger quantities and tasted at the rear part of the tongue.  

Pungency is not a taste. The sensation of spiciness is caused by heat development that triggers a painful stimulus. Since dogs are sentient creatures, they can also perceive spiciness. In addition, spicy food usually leads to gastrointestinal problems.

The cat’s tongue

Anyone who has ever been licked by a cat knows the rough cat’s tongue. On it are small papillae, so-called small “horn thorns”. These are directed to the back and serve among other things the fur-care. Our cats also need their movable tongue to absorb fluids. The tip of the tongue can be rolled up for this purpose and can absorb water like a shovel. The tongue is also responsible for the temperature balance, because cats can also pant (but only after extensive movement). This cools their body temperature because they can only sweat over their paws. The saliva evaporates on the tongue and cools the body.  



What and to what extent cats taste can’t be said per se, because also our pets have their preferences. It is a fact that some of them have the same taste buds as humans. Although they are not able to taste sweet because they lack the responsible taste receptors, they are able to taste the water quality. The sense of taste is basically used to distinguish between edible and inedible foods. Even if cats use this sense, they rather rely on their pronounced sense of smell.