Science explains why your cat is such a picky eater
New scientific research is giving us some clues as to why our cats turn their noses up so often at dinnertime. If you’re a cat lover, this has surely happened to you. It goes a little something like this: You call your cat into the kitchen. You give her an enthusiastic pep talk. Here kitty, kitty. Look! Ocean whitefish and tuna in gravy. Yum yum! You place the bowl in front of her as carefully as if you’re serving the queen of England. Kitty sniffs the food and just when you think she’s going to take a bite, she glares at in in disgust. With a flick of her tail she saunters out of the kitchen. Your entire apartment now smells like tuna and rejection.
So what gives? Cats definitely have a rep for being finicky, whereas dogs will each pretty much anything. (Even something a cat has already consumed, if you get my drift. I know…gross.) A new scientific study called Functional Analyses of Bitter Taste Receptors in Domestic Cats proposes that Kitty isn’t just being a jerk. Her sense of taste is just more finely attuned than Fido’s is. And that’s a good thing, because it’s nature’s way of telling felines whether a food is either nutritious or potentially harmful.
As the name of the study suggests, the key to understanding the way cats taste their food has a lot to do with the way their taste buds process bitterness. Evolution has taught animals that foods with a sweet taste are safe and provide important sources of sugar and energy. Sour tasting foods, on the other hand, usually contain harmful toxins. Avoiding food with a bitter taste is a defense mechanism.
Of course, it’s been a long time since domestic cats have had to forage for their food, and even though they possess 12 different genes to process bitter tastes, dogs have the same exact number of these. (As do ferrets and polar bears. You know, in case you were wondering.) But Peihua Jiang, a molecular biologist at Monell, found that the bitter taste receptor genes in cats react more strongly to bitter stimuli than the genes in other animals. Another study earlier this year even found that cats process bitter tastes more strongly than human beings do. (Not that it’s a contest. But if it were, cats would SO dominate.)
Basically, Kitty isn’t picky at all. She just has a supersensitive sense of taste. We’re not all that surprised by this news, are we? Deep down, we always suspected our kitties simply had a taste for the finer things in life. So the next time Kitty flat out refuses to eat what you put in front of her, try and think of it as a paw-sitive thing.
[Image via Shutterstock.]