I recently adopted a five-week old kitten, and like any nervous new cat lady, I basically feel the need to research all things feline. Of course, I began with food. It began with intensely Googling every brand of cat food out there. Then, I dove into researching what human foods I could share with my kitten. Eventually, I ended here: the foods and flavors that my cat craves.
I was devastated to discover that my cat and I have very different palates. For instance, my cat apparently does not share my insatiable sweet tooth. Research conducted by the Monell Chemical Senses Center discovered that cats (and all their feline relatives) literally cannot taste sweet flavors.
Apparently, they lack the DNA to develop sweet receptors on their taste buds. But, when this research came out, people were quite skeptical.
“When we published our research, I got 250 e-mails in two days saying, ‘My cat likes ice cream,’ or, ‘My cat likes marshmallows,’” explained Dr. Joseph Brand, “Cats enjoy fat, protein, and novel textures. Eating those foods doesn’t mean they’re responding to the sweetness.”
Brand mentions how cats tend to crave fat and protein. That’s because cats, unlike humans, are pure carnivores. Unlike us, they only need fat and protein to survive.
Because felines subsist only on meat, they ultimately only crave meat or things that remind them of meat. For example, cats apparently love mushrooms because they contain glutamate, which gives them an umami flavor that reminds them of meat.
But remember, just because your cat loves a certain food, doesn’t mean they should eat it. Vets warn against giving cats mushrooms because it may make them more likely to eat poisonous mushrooms that they find in the wild. And, while cats may love the fat and protein in ice cream, they cannot easily digest carbohydrates, so eating sugar will often upset their tummies.
When it comes to enjoying life’s indulgences with my cat, I now know to skip the Ben & Jerry’s and slip them a prime steak instead.