A cat’s sense of taste is weak compared to humans who have 9,000 taste buds while domestic cats have 473. However, this relative deficiency is more than made up for by the cat’s sense of smell which is 30 times better than ours. When cat food is cold its aroma is diminished and its attractiveness less noticeable to a cat.
Cats are responsive to four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salt and bitter. Cats are weak on sweet tastes which is in contrast to the human’s sweet tooth. Our liking of the sweet taste comes from our evolution in eating fruits as part of our natural diet.
Some say that sweet tastes cannot be detected by cats but this appears to be incorrect. Test done before 1992 indicate that cats can detect sweet tastes.
The test involved feeding cats diluted milk and milk with sucrose. The cats preferred the latter. In practice cats ignore the sweetness of foods. So if provided with full strength milk and sweetened milk the cat prefers the former.
Dr Morris says that kittens lose their sweet tooth in adulthood. Mother’s milk is relatively sweet. A cat most strongly reacts to tastes in the following in descending order:
Smell is more powerful for decision making than taste and cats have great noses. Smell is the stronger factor when approaching food. We see that when we feed our cats. They sniff their way to the food and reject it on aroma alone. A cat can learn all he needs to know about food from its aroma.
The domestic cat’s preferred food temperature is the same as her tongue at 30 degrees C (86 degrees F). This preference is inherited from her wild cat ancestor eating freshly killed prey.
Food direct from the fridge is not a good idea for feeding the cat.
Source: Cat World by Dr Desmond Morris.