What is taste and why does it matter?

If you have a fussy cat, you know how hard it can be to find the right food for her. You go from flavor to flavor only to find yourself back where you started – with the cat refusing to eat. So, what can you do? It may be time to redefine what delicious food means to your cat. Rather than looking for flavor, it’s time to start looking at the overall taste experience.


A human has around 9,000 taste buds while a cat only has about 500 and they only taste four of the five basic tastes we do – sour, salt, bitter and umami. Since cats have so few taste buds, there are several other things that contribute to the total taste experience, or palatability, as it is also called.

What does the food smell like? The diet needs to be aromatic and fresh.


As you know, the smell of the food plays a major role for us humans. For the cat that has a much better sense of smell than we do, the smell is even more important. The surface that recognizes fragrance molecules is 10 times greater in the cat than in humans. This, along with its 65 million odor cells, compared to our 2-10 million, gives the cat an incredible sense of smell. It’s easy to understand that smell is one of the most important parameters when a cat decides whether the food is tasty or not.



First, eliminate any possibility that the environment is creating a fussy feline. Some cats will refuse to eat if the litter box and the food source are too close to each other. Finding different spots to place the food or slightly tweaking your cat’s environment might help quickly solve your problem.

If environmental tweaks don’t seem to help, it may be worth considering a new feeding schedule. Cats normally eat 10 to 20 small meals a day. Trying out a new feeding schedule, where your cat is getting a fresh meal several times a day, may help stimulate her appetite. It can also help to put some of the food in a toy. This will stimulate their natural hunting behaviour and keep them active and entertained. Always remember to take into account the age of your cat, physiological status (e.g. is it castrated?), lifestyle and breed when choosing a diet. There are many other factors that can affect the cat’s perception of taste of the food. Diseases and drugs can change a cat’s appetite. Anxiety, activity level and hormonal stage are other ones. Older cats may have a change in appetite because their senses are getting weaker. If a cat has had dental issues, it may be an idea to serve wet diets or to soak the dry kibbles with some water, to make them easier to eat.


The storage of the food is of great importance for the palatability. Packages keep the food fresh, but once you have opened a package of food,  keep it dry and as air tight as possible. Please keep the food in the bag, sealed with a clamp and leave the whole bag in a closed food container. Also, make sure the cat always has fresh water and clean food and water bowls.

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