If you are a cat owner, you have probably wondered at times about your cat’s eating habits. They may turn their nose up at gourmet treats you offer them but then quite happily eat some garbage they have stolen out of the trash can. When cats behave in this way, it is clear they have different food preferences to humans. As their eating habits differ so much from humans, you may have wondered if your cat has any taste buds at all. So, do cats even have taste buds?
Do Cats Have Taste Buds?
All mammals have taste buds, and this includes cats. However, each species is different, both in terms of the number of taste buds they possess and the way in which they taste. The differences predominantly relate to the differences in each species natural diet.
How Many Taste Buds Do They Have?
It is estimated that humans have around nine thousand taste buds. Cats differ as they have far fewer taste buds than humans, says Purina. Scientists suggest that cats only have around 470 taste buds, and this means their sense of taste is very different to that of humans. Although cats have a reputation for their highly sensitive senses, their sense of taste is the one sense in which humans have a greater prowess.
What Can Cats Taste?
Despite having significantly fewer taste buds than humans, cats still have the same range of taste buds. Therefore, their taste buds can differentiate between salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and meaty flavors. However, a cat’s taste buds differ in how they detect different flavors.
Are There Things Cats Cannot Taste?
Although cats have the same range of taste buds as humans, the sweet taste buds are not very reactive, says Cat Health. While cats will sense a mild sweet flavor, it is not a strong taste to them, so it is not particularly appealing in the same way as it is for humans. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they naturally eat meat and have a diet that is high in protein. Their nutritional needs do not require them to eat foods with sugar or food that contain carbohydrates that the body turns to sugar. Therefore, there is no need for cats to have taste buds that are sensitive to sugar. If you have ever offered your cat one of your favorite sweet treats, and they have shown no interest in eating the food, it is explained by their lack of sensitivity to sweet flavors. In most cases, cats have little interest in eating sweet foods. If your cat does enjoy sweet foods, it is more likely the fat content they find appealing and not the sweet taste.
What Role Does Smell Play in the Sense of Taste?
In many cases, the senses work together to create an overall experience. For humans, the dining experience begins before the food even reaches their mouths, as the visual appeal of the food and the way it smells are vital elements for the enjoyment of food. Similarly, a cat’s sense of smell has a big impact on the way it tastes food. It is particularly important for felines as their sense of taste is not as strong as their other senses. Cats have a biological structure on the roof of their mouths called the Jacobson’s organ. It connects their nasal passage and mouth, and it is used to combine sense with taste. Cats spread the flavor of food around the roof of their mouth, and this releases odors. The combination of the flavor and the smell allows cats to taste in a different way from humans. It is not only cats that have a Jacobson’s organ in the roof of their mouths. Some other animals with this organ include dogs, horses, mice, goats, elephants, pigs, cattle, snakes, and lizards. Furthermore, some species of monkeys also have a Jacobson’s organ. Any animal with this organ experiences the taste and smell combinations in the same way as cats.
Are There Flavors That Cats Do Not Enjoy?
In many cases, the flavors that humans enjoy is a matter of personal preference, although extremes of any of the taste types are unpleasant for most people. Likewise, there are also tastes that cats do not enjoy and other tastes that they love. As their natural diet is predominantly protein-based, most cats favor meaty flavors. Some tastes that most cats do not enjoy are sweet, bitter, and sour flavors. Therefore, it is unlikely that your cat will eat food that has strong flavors that are sweet, bitter, or sour. According to Catster, cats are particularly sensitive to bitter flavors. Their bitter receptors are very sensitive, and this is due to self-preservation. In the wild, cats are at risk of consuming poisonous substances when eating animals such as poisonous insects and toads. Any venom these creatures carry will usually have a bitter taste. The sensitivity of cats’ bitter receptors is a way of deterring them from eating potentially harmful substances.
The Final Verdict – Do Cats Have Taste Buds?
The simple answer to whether cats have taste buds is that yes, cats do have taste buds. However, they have approximately 12 times fewer taste buds than humans, and their sweet taste buds are not very sensitive as cats do not have sweet foods in their natural diet. A cat’s other senses are finely tuned, and their sensitive sense of smell plays an important role in the way that cats taste the food. Due to the differences in the way that humans and cats taste their food, they enjoy eating different things. Cats particularly do not like bitter food, as their bitter receptors are highly sensitive as it protects wild cats from eating animals containing bitter, venomous substances. Most cats will avoid eating food they find unpleasant.