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.