Did You know that cats can’t taste sweet things? While cookies, cake and candy are awesome, cats will never appreciate the sugary secret behind our cravings for syrupy desserts. But why can’t cats enjoy the sweet stuff like we do?
First off, your cat isn’t alone. Lions, tigers, jaguars, hyenas, dolphins, sea lions and other select mammalian carnivores do not have the taste buds that allow their brains to recognize “sweet” tasting foods. Apparently, the secret is in the cat’s genes, and a lack of 247 pairs of amino acids that collectively combine the DNA of the Tas1r2 gene, which creates “sweet sensing” taste buds when coupled with a functional Tas1r3 gene. The ability to taste and prefer sweet treats was tested in a variety of carnivores by offering them a selection of sweetened and normal flavored water dishes. While cats would drink from either bowl, carnivores such as dogs, ferrets and giant pandas able to taste the sweet drink had a preference for the sugar water.
Note that this doesn’t explain why my cat ate a cherry toaster pastry that I left out when I wasn’t looking, or why your kitty might have an odd craving for whatever sweet treats you have around the house! Seriously, researchers don’t know why some cats seem to go out of their way for candy and ice cream, but one theory is that some individual breeds can taste very high concentrations of sweetness with their functional Tas1r3 genes. Who knows why some cats seem to crave sweet snacks when they can’t seem to taste them, but keep a lid on the cookie jar just in case!