Cats and Food: How Tastes are Formed

cat habits for cat foodKittens should be raised on high quality cat food. Not only should kittens be raised on good quality cat food so should the kitten’s mother. And the mother should be feeding on the highest quality food when she is raising her kittens. That is what I believe.

I believe that common sense tells me that a cat’s food taste preferences are based on (a) eons of natural selection. We all know that a cat is a strict carnivore and so likes the smell and taste of animal flesh (that probably sounds gross but it has to be true) and (b) observing his/her mother – cats are good learners from observation and (c) possibly inherited preferences from parents, but I would expect there to be little variation between cats, and (d) what he is used to eating (what I will call “eating habits”). These four factors seem to cover all possible influences.

Human children learn to like salt or sugar in tea. I stopped having sugar in tea ages ago and after four weeks it tasted fine. Now sugar in tea tastes horrible. I believe that we develop food habits and food preferences based on our natural inherited preferences plus what we eat when we are infants and going forward when we are teenagers.

I would suggest that if a cat is raised on poor quality cat food he is more likely to shun good quality cat food when he is an adult. If a cat is raised on dry cat food he might find wet cat food unacceptable. Food habits can be formed when young. In fact I’ll propose that a kitten’s eating habits are formed very early on.

I have read several articles from visitors on PoC who bemoan the fact that their cat likes the “wrong” sort of cat food. DW’s BigFoot insists on eating dry food, as I recall. I realise I am guessing here, but it is quite likely that he was raised on dry cat food.

My cat, Charlie, shuns the best quality cat food I can buy. I want to buy for him the best food but he consistently demonstrates that he prefers poorer quality food, which is disappointing and results in a lot of waste! He may just prefer a certain brand of cat food but his preference for poorer quality is across all brands. I am not saying he eats poor quality food, it is just that he does not like the highest quality food, rich in “real” meats. He prefers flavoured “cardboard”. He is a rescue cat. I don’t know his past so will have to speculate but it seems to me he was raised on rubbish cat food.

Eating habits are like any habits. They can be formed and they can broken. It is harder to break a habit than to form it. I believe that cat breeders and cat owners who allow their cats to breed have an obligation to ensure that the kittens form the best possible eating habits as it will improve their lives by improving their health.

I am unable to write more specifically on this subject because, as far as I am aware, there are no studies or authoritative articles on the subject of how a cat’s food tastes are formed. If someone knows better please tell me in a comment.

  1. Articles about “best cat food” on this website
  2. Photo by AlishaV (modified as allowed)
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Cats and Food: How Tastes are Formed — 19 Comments

  1. We feed our gang based on what they digest well. I’ve bought several grain free in both wet and dry that gave the cats diarrhea even after a slow adjustment. Sealy has the most sensitive tummy. He and the other cats do well on Blue Buffalo, which is expensive. As for wet food Sealy can only handle Whiskas Purrfectly Chicken. He gets the loose stools with any canned whatsoever and we’ve tried a lot. So taste, while important, comes in second after digestion. As for dry food they eat Dad’s Gourmet Blend sold at Tractor & Supply.

  2. Yes Michael, you are right. Bigfoot refuses wet food. I’m sure early in his life dry food was all he was ever fed.

    I’m wondering if there is any liquid nourishment for cats out there? Does anyone know? I’ve let Bigfoot lap up cows milk before. Not at all often, as I understand it isn’t good for him. Sometimes I wonder why? He seems to like it.

    With his kidney disease advancing, and the vet not wanting to work on his teeth (nor do I want to risk anesthesia)….he is having trouble eating his dry food. He is so small already, I worry he isn’t getting enough nutrition. I’ve tried everything, as I’ve said in the past. He would refuse the finest caviar!

    Of course, I’ll ask my vet about liquid food too, but just thought I would put it out there here, where the best advice in the world comes in.

    • Sometimes I wonder why?

      It can cause diarrhea because of the lactose and cats are not able to digest that as I remember.

      I understand the dilemma, DW. He likes dry but can’t eat it. Difficult problem. What about boiled fish and using the liquid as a drink? I did that for my first cat to cure cystitis. It meant she drank more but there are nutrients in it too.

      What about this DW:

      • Thanks Michael! I have never seen that product. I like the idea of boiled fish too. I’ll give it a try. I’ll let you know if he likes it. I’ll look for the GNC product locally.

        Hmm…I wonder about boiled mouse? Lol. Full nutrition!

        • That liquid supplement is really a good product if you can get Bigfoot to drink it.
          I’ve had poor luck with the supplements but have boiled chicken legs or thighs, cooled the broth in the frig until fat rises to the top and can be scraped off. Then, I’ve warmed the broth and poured it over the dry. Sometimes it worked well.

        • It is a jazzed up picture from Flickr using Abobe Elements (one of their tools). Makes it abstract. I pleased you like it 😉 LOL. There is a link at the base of the page to the photographer’s photostream. She just took a snapshot. Not worth seeing really!

          If you want to use you can because it is published under a creative commons license.

    • Gigi has trouble accepting wet food and is hooked on dry food and yet all my cats have been brought up the same on both – mainly wet – but Gigi just waits until the biscuits come along and seems to survive off just biscuits.

      The teeth hurting Bigfoot could be a real serious problem in the end. I’m sorry it’s like that. I hope Bigfoot will be ok – what a sweet cat.

      • Do you think some cats like the texture of dry food? Or perhaps they are just suckers for the high carb. content. Perhaps it is like getting people becoming hooked on sugar drinks, which is a current health problem in the UK. The food manufacturers know that how to trap us and our cats.

        • yep mine sure do esp Rebel he seems to have almost an addiction to cat biscuits. He just doesnt seem to not stop i believe though the house he came from was hard as they girl had alot of cats like over 22 and i think he didnt cope well it.

    • Do some research on KMR milk. We’ve supplemented it to young or sick cats with no problem. The powdered for is around $12 at Tractor & Suppy.

  3. Michael, I just had a thought about Charlie and commercial cat food. Since Marvin has been living here full time, I’ve observed his eating behavior more closely. When I was feeding him for his caretaker at the school, he seemed to gobble up the canned food no problem. Now I realize, some other critter must have been eating it, not him.

    If I mix up his canned food with water, lots of it, he laps it up like a champ, leaving behind some of the chunky meat.

    Have other readers noticed that cats are either lapping eaters, or chomping eaters? Marvin is a lapper. At least now I know he is getting enough to eat.

    Yellow has always been a chomper. That makes it easy to bury a pill if she needs it, by making a pyramid of her food, putting the pill in the top of the pyramid, then keeping Shadow away long enough for her to get the pill. It has always worked. Marvin needed antibiotics last year, and it wasn’t so easy. He has jaws of steel!

    Anyway, I thought you might want to give that a whirl Michael.

  4. Just like people I suppose, cats get used to the diet they are fed on and find it difficult to convert their taste buds to something different.

  5. this article is timely as in nxt few weeks im hoping to get a new kitty. Its made me realise how important to give the right food for kitty. Just wanted to say im not replacing cassy as she will forever be in my mind and heart. Its so hard at times knowing ill never see her again or walk inside i just feel so devasted still.

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