Cats Cannot Taste Sweetness in Food

June 17, 2010 at 12:38 am 7 comments

My favorite classic science fair exhibit is the taste buds booth.

It’s like going to the electronics department in Costco — you eat free food samples while some kid tells you stuff you’ll never remember because all you’re thinking about is how you can get away from the booth without it looking like you just came over for the free food samples.

Taste has been studied for a long time. In 1901, Harvard professor Edwin G. Boring  published a paper that stated different taste receptors can be found on different parts of the human tongue. His last name was Boring, but his work was not. In fact, his work is slightly controversial since all areas of the tongue are sensitive to all tastes; however, some areas are more sensitive than others.

Some wine and beer glasses are shaped to encourage the liquid to hit certain parts of your tongue first, this is supposed to deliver the ideal taste sensation for that drink.

There are five generally accepted taste sensations:

  • Sweet
  • Bitter
  • Savory
  • Salty
  • Sour

Most mammals can experience all of these sensations. There are some exceptions, particularly with sweetness. New world monkeys do not perceive aspartame as sweet. Humans, apes and old world monkeys do. Cats cannot taste sweetness at all.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Wikipedia (taste buds, sweetness, wine glass), Scientific American

Entry filed under: Around The House, Despite Popular Belief, Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Patrick  |  June 17, 2010 at 11:17 am

    So what is Savory, exactly? What type of foods taste savoriy?

  • 2. Elbyron  |  June 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Savory, aka “Umami”, is best described as a meaty flavor, like you would expect a high-quality broth to taste like. It is commonly tasted in products like meat, cheese, and mushrooms. It comes from the carboxylate anion of glutamic acid, and salts of glutamic acid such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) are often used to enhance the savory flavor of a dish.
    (source: Wikipedia:Umami)

  • 3. Ryan  |  June 24, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Can cats taste bacon-flavored adhesive bandages?

  • 4. saltbreadbroom  |  July 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I had read a while ago that cats could not taste sweet. I asked my vet about it after one of my cats ate all the frosting off of a cinnamon roll. The vet wasn’t sure what was up. The cat still loves sweets, especially pop tart filling and strawberry jelly. I wonder if there’s something else in ‘sweet’ that cats may be able to taste?

  • 5. Anonymous Veterinarian  |  August 15, 2010 at 4:03 am

    “Cats cannot taste sweetness at all.”
    Rubbish! and a blatant lie!
    Cats will go for sweet flavour’s over bitter every time.
    Research your facts before posting please, I get tired of the increased and constant flow of false so called facts that are appearing on the internet these days, there is no need for it.

    • 6. Chad Upton  |  August 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm

      I completely agree, there is no need for false information on the internet. I encourage people to dispute the facts on this site, it’s the only way we’ll meet the objective of having the most accurate information possible.

      With that said, I’m not sure why you failed to provide your real email address or any sources for your claim.

      I did my research and my sources are listed (Scientific American).

      Here’s my source article if you’re interested. It’s actually pretty scientific, as a veterinarian you may appreciate that.

      Also, just because cats prefer sweetness over bitterness, doesn’t necessarily mean they can taste sweetness, it may just mean they don’t like bitterness.

  • 7. chriscp  |  September 24, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I had a cat when I was growing up who most definitely had a sweet tooth. If the cat “prefers” sweetness over bitterness it kind of suggests that it’s tasting something in the sweet thing, no? Otherwise it would ignore both things, not just go for the one it dislikes less.
    People (including lots of science-y type people) believed for a long time that cats & dogs were colorblind. That’s been debunked as well.


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