Understanding Why Cats Can Be Fussy Eaters

New Treatments for feline diseases
New Treatments for feline diseases. Research.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The title might have been “Understanding how cats taste bitterness will help in the delivery of medicines”.

Scientists, in a recent study published 3rd June 2015, found that taste receptors in cats’ tongues are unlike those in humans. This implies that domestic cats experience a different sensation when eating a substance that is bitter. The researchers examined the responses of 2 taste receptors in the cat: Tas2r38 and Tas2r43.

The study is published online at the journal BMC Neuroscience. In finding that cats taste bitterness differently to us, the information gleaned may help in the manufacture of specialised foods or medicines which are more palatable to cats, thereby making it easier to deliver medicines to them.

Cat eats plant
Cat eats plant

Cats have evolved to detect bitterness in order to avoid toxic substances found, for example, in plants. Cats eat plant material either directly when, for example, they eat grass (or other specific vegetation), or indirectly when they ingest the stomach contents of the prey that they are devouring. Cats always leave the bile duct of mice.

Bitter substances may also be in commercially manufactured pet food and medicines. It may be the case that manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies are making products which taste bitter to domestic cats to the point where they are unpalatable or less palatable than they might be. The flavours and grains and other plant material in commercially produced pet foods may not be as palatable as they might be. This research may be used to avoid that unsatisfactory situation.

Nancy Rawson of AFB International, a science company working with the pet food industry said the research:

“We confront the challenge of finicky cats every day. As such, it is exciting to find an unexpected receptor response to bitter compounds.”

The researchers write:

“A concern arises when a household cat is ill and either a specialised food or medicine is prescribed and refused…Veterinarians desire strategies that will increase the consumption of nutrients and medicines when needed.”

The challenge for the pet food manufacturers will be to avoid exploiting the information to sell more food because at present there is a pet obesity epidemic.

  • Researchers: Michelle M Sandau1, Jason R Goodman, Anu Thomas, Joseph B Rucker and Nancy E Rawson
  • Link to research report.

2 thoughts on “Understanding Why Cats Can Be Fussy Eaters”

  1. I’d be pleased if they use this new found information to make medicines more palatable. Getting a sick cat to take tablets or liquid medicine is a struggle for many owners, myself included.

    The researchers are already working with the pet food industry, so there’s no doubt they’ll be incorporating this new found knowledge into the manufacturing process. I just hope they don’t use it as an opportunity to lower the nutritional quality of existing ingredients in favour of enhanced flavour.

    At present it seems that the most palatable foods (the ones they never refuse) are the complementary ones which unfortunately don’t fulfill a cat’s nutritional needs.

    If I could be confident that no more meals would be rejected with a look of contempt, I’d be prepared to pay more for “new and improved” highly palatable, food.

  2. I doubt if any pet food manufacturer wants to avoid “exploiting” this information, since it will increase their bottom line.


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