How Good Is a Cat's Sense of Taste?

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, discusses how well cats can taste and smell food.

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Q: How good is a cat’s sense of taste?

A: You wouldn’t think so the way they eat up their stinky wet cat food! Actually, a cat’s sense of sight, hearing and smell are highly developed, but not their taste buds. That’s why smelly food is so attractive to many cats. My cats are crazy for the super-fishy brand I buy. The minute they hear the pantry door open, it’s the Indy 500 into the kitchen. I can barely get the bowls down as they make it known to me that I am not moving fast enough. Lester, my youngster with the appetite of a rhinoceros, practically knocks his bowl over (actually I secretly think his kitty siblings would enjoy that so they could dive in).

Just like us, cats’ sense of smell and taste let them know how appealing the food is. I have read that they can distinguish between sour, bitter and salt tastes — but not sweetness for some reason. Please do not add any sugar their food to find out. I say this because in my travels as a cat sitter I have seen it all. I know a cat that loves cantaloupe and I suspect he likes the texture. Another kitty I care for is crazy for olives. Their owners give then each a small bit now and then but I always say people food should be very limited.

Cats are not vegetarians, and healthy cats need a diet high in animal protein. If your vet suggests a specialty diet due to health problems and your cat refuses to eat it, please tell the vet right away to work out a compromise. I believe in regulating diets for health reasons but it will do no good if your cat turns his nose up. Speaking of which, keep wet food in the refrigerator and use it  within two days if possible. Sometimes the fridge takes the smell out of the food, so mix it with some warm water to revitalize it and always have plenty of fresh water available. Bon Appetit!

As always I welcome your comments and stories. What’s your cat’s favorite food?

Cat Calls BookGood News! My new book, "Cat Calls: Wonderful Stories and Practical Advice from a Veteran Cat Sitter" with CAT FANCY editor Susan Logan is now available in stores and online. Please click here for more information.

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Reader Comments

Anita    Charlotte, NC

3/1/2015 6:06:25 PM

I have one cat who will also eat cantaloupe, plus bananas, and navel oranges. He never gets very much of anything, but he does love a little from time to time. His sister loves anything dairy. She has to lick my yogurt cup, and she always begs for a taste when I have ice cream. I allow her a small amount occasionally. She appreciates every little bit she gets! She likes just a taste of applesauce, too. Other than these occasional favorites, they eat a healthy, normal cat food diet.

Cynthia    Longmont, CO

2/24/2015 4:56:08 PM

My two guys love cheese, especially the good sharp Welsh cheddar I get at a local specialty store. They sit at my feet and watch for me to set the plate down so they can have the crumbs. They don't get this treat very often, though.

Sharon    Whitehall, PA

2/24/2015 3:07:39 PM

My kitten wants whatever I am eating until she smells it. Then it's either a yes or no. Cooked chicken is her favorite. She does like sweets and will lick the flavoring off my apple/cinnamon rice cakes and take a bit of applesauce. Since having other cats that wouldn't touch people food, I'm glad she will try something in human food because if she ever needs to be on a special diet of chicken and rice or something similar I know she will eat something.

Diana    Chicago, IL

9/14/2012 10:59:22 AM

My cats meow when they see the can of food. Dont even need to open it yet. :)

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