Are Cats More Sophisticated Gourmets Than Dogs?

cat eating (photopin)

Are Cats More Sophisticated Gourmets Than Dogs?

I read many interesting articles in the New York Times pertaining to dogs and cats, and I was especially curious about this article, which considered which of the two species has a more highly attuned sense of taste and smell.

The big question posed in the article is why cats are more finicky about their food than dogs, even though canines have a more acute sense of smell.

An explanation about why cats tend to be super picky about their diets is that they will lean toward whatever food they received as kittens. What cats are fed as young kittens, both through mother’s milk and early solids, may lead to lifelong preferences (which I why I passionately urge everyone to avoid high-carbohydrate plant-based kibble — which I call “kitty crack” —  whenever possible!).

As you all must know by now, I am an ardent proponent of feeding cats as though they are obligate carnivores (because they are!) by giving them high quality, low-carbohydrate canned food for the protein and moisture content. My favorite cat food is made by Weruva, with many different styles of food all made with ingredients and facilities where food for people is made, and a commitment to cats eating quality wet food. And I salute the responsible ingredient sourcing and selection in Halo canned cat foods and their super low-carb varieties, and so will your kitties.

I urge you to bypass dry food entirely, and offer your kitties whatever canned cat food you can afford, for their health and longevity. However, I do understand that for economic or practical/convenience reasons that people need or choose to feed dry food, but I do hope they will include as much wet food in the diet as they can.]

The NYT article questions: why don’t cats ravenously gulp down their food, opting instead to be fussy about their meal selection? One reason suggested for their pickiness is that cats are mostly solitary hunters, not pack animals like dogs, who have to wolf their food down to be sure to get their share. A few bites is all a cat needs with her small stomach, anyway.

The Times article cited research showing that cats respond less to sweetness in food than people or dogs do. Cats also have more receptors for bitterness. The smell of food influences how a cat responds. Since cats are not as sensitive to smell as dogs, aroma becomes very important to them, which is why cold food may not entice them (my book The Cat Bible: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know has a number of tips about successful feline mealtimes).  Texture is another consideration: cats’ teeth evolved to rip and tear at their prey, not to grind. The Times article considered whether this fact might be why cats often prefer canned moist chunks and shreds over dry food, which tends to be swallowed whole. At the same time, many kitties respond best to the pate-style wet food which is already blended together.

All these factors add up to a finicky cat who reacts more or less enthusiastically to a variety of elements in food. Every cat is an individual and always reserves the right to change her mind about her likes and dislikes! That is why multiple exposures to many different kinds of food is good to broaden her palate.

—Tracie Hotchner

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photo credit: stratman² (2 many pix!) How to enjoy a good meal via photopin (license)