ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why Cats Can't Taste Sweetness

Updated on October 13, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.

"So much chocolate, so little sweet gene."
"So much chocolate, so little sweet gene." | Source

Dysfunctional Gene Discovered In 2005

How many times have you heard someone say, "Well animals are attracted to antifreeze because there's a sweetness to it that they like." Nice try, Bucko, but it strikes a sour note with cats, because cats can't taste sweetness. All they can taste is salty, sour and bitter.

Isn't that a crummy way to go through life? It would be for us humans, with our gazillion taste buds. But for cats, which have fewer than 500 taste buds, no problem. Dogs don't fare much better, with about 1/6 the taste buds we have. With both species' aroma is the palatability trigger.

If it passes their sniff test, it usually goes down. Texture is also an important palatability factor, and that covers a variety of complex considerations for the cat or dog, depending upon whether he's evaluating dry kibble or canned food.

For cats, kibble comes in various sizes, shapes and textures. Shapes include balls, discs, cubes (with rounded corners) "X's," and "O's," for example. While an animal may approve of the size, he may not approve of the shape of the kibble. Then there's one more hurdle: what the surface feels like.

Source

Some kibble is smooth, some is coarse, some is hard and breaks into a couple of pieces, some is softer and crumbles in the mouth. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that the vast majority of dogs wouldn't give a second thought to all of that. Hell, they'll eat TV remotes, coins and road kill.

Cats on the other hand, bless their little hearts, do give a second thought to all of that. And just to exasperate you more, they'll give a third and fourth thought to it. Are there any cat owners among you who have a collection of different foods in the closet? Look at all those hands go up!

Canned food is usually less of a problem. It comes, basically, in two types. There's the loaf or pâté stuff with the consistency of that canned, ground-up luncheon meat and God knows what else, and there's the stuff that's like a stew. Both dog and cat foods come in those forms. Dogs usually don't care, cats sometimes do.

This isn't my cat, Fluffy, but the cantaloupe probably has the cat's attention.
This isn't my cat, Fluffy, but the cantaloupe probably has the cat's attention. | Source

But the reason cats can't taste sweetness has nothing to do with aroma or texture. The receptor that recognizes sweetness involves two genes, and in cats one of these genes is dysfunctional. Those of us with a hyperactive sweet tooth would really appreciate such a dysfunctional gene.

It has long been believed that cats had a weak sense of taste, but that it was better developed than a dog's. I learned over the years, from several sources, that cats favored foods that were acidic. But researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center isolated the dysfunctional gene.

The facility is a non-profit research institute in Philadelphia and news of the discovery was released in 2005. They had discovered the defective gene in the big cats back in the 70's. The existence of the defective gene has spawned some "chicken or the egg" debate.

Are cats obligate carnivores because they have the defective gene, or did the gene become dysfunctional because they were obligate carnivores and didn't utilize it? An interesting dilemma for sure, but I have my own dilemma that's keeping me awake at night.

What does cantaloupe taste like to my cat, Fluffy? In her youth I caught her up on the counter finishing off what I left attached to the rind. In her later years if I cut open a fresh cantaloupe, no matter where she was in the house, she'd be at my feet in seconds.

Cantaloupe tastes sweet to me (thank you functioning sweet-gene), but she can't taste the sweetness. And another thing, why doesn't she react similarly when I crack open a honeydew melon?

It would be nice if the Monell folks answered that one. Anyway, your cat doesn’t drink anti-freeze because it’s sweet. It must smell appealing to her.

By the way, if your cat walks through a puddle of antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol, and licks her paw, she’ll likely ingest enough to kill her. About five tablespoons of it will kill a medium size dog. It destroys their kidneys. Be sure to wipe up spills in the driveway or garage.

The "pet safe" antifreezes on the market use chemicals such as propylene glycol, which has a low freezing point and a high toxicity level. It can be safely consumed below its toxic level. In fact, it's used as a moistening agent in some human and pet foods and treats.

© 2012 Bob Bamberg

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Kathy, the aroma is probably irresistible and the texture seals the deal. I'd love to know what strawberry jelly tastes like to them. Probably like us eating it while we have a bad cold. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Regards, Bob

    • KathyH profile image

      KathyH 

      5 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      I didn't know this! Both of our cats LOVE strawberry jelly and when I make a peanut and butter and jelly sandwich, they have to lick some of the jelly off my fingers. I thought they have a sweet tooth, but that must not be the reason!

      I also have one cat who LOVES blueberry muffins! Crazy cats! :) Thanks for the helpful info! Our cats never go in the garage, this is nice to know if they ever DO run out there! :)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)