The cat sense of taste is one sense that human beings rein dominance over cats. While we have approximately 9,000 taste buds on our tongues, your cat only has 473. So compared to humans’ cat taste is weak. Your cat’s pleasure for food is stemmed from his acute ability to smell rather than his taste. Therefore, your cat may sniff at that costly delicacy you just put down for him and walk away without even tasting it. This is mainly due to the Jacobson’s organ in the roof of his mouth that enables him to taste sent molecules. So basically your cat can taste food without eating it.
Cats being carnivores like their wild ancestors ate freshly killed prey, so they prefer their food to be around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the same temperature as their tongue. That is why food straight from the fridge may not appeal to your kitty. Heating it up will intensify the aroma if your kitty does not want to eat.
Humans have taste buds that can distinguish sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and meaty/savory. Because they are carnivores, the cat sense of taste can distinguish between sour, bitter and salt foods, but sweets are meaningless to them. They do not need to eat sugar of carbohydrates, therefore there is no reason for them to have a taste for it. Because they are meat eaters, they cannot properly digest carbohydrates. Most pet food manufacturers use grains as their primary ingredient. This is one of the reasons why many cats will eventually get diabetes. Some people might think that their cats have a sweet tooth, but they do not. With the cat sense of taste they are attracted to the fat content of the food. Cats can easily detect fat.
Cats are also sensitive to bitter taste, this may have a lot to do with their carnivorous ancestors avoiding the skin of toxic animals that is found in the skin of prey species such as frogs, reptiles and invertebrates. Think how nasty a toad would taste. When cats eat a mouse, there may be a blackish blog left behind that is not touched by your cat, that is the gall bladder which is filled with bitter bile.
Cats also have a preference in the consistency of their foods. They like small kibble over crumbs, and they prefer different shapes to their kibble. However, they tend to prefer soft food over hard food. With the cat sense of taste no wonder they can be so finicky at times.
When you get licked by a dog, their tongues feel slimy and full of saliva. What I often call... "wet kisses" On the other hand, when you get licked by a cat, it feels as if your cat just dragged a tiny piece of sandpaper across your skin. It's so rough that when they remove their tongue it's almost surprising your skin is still intact.
The reason for the rough, sandpaper feeling is that cats' tongues are covered with papillae, which look like tiny, backward-facing barbs. Papillae are made up of keratin, which is a protein also found in human fingernails and hair.
The papillae on a cat's tongue play a very important role in the daily life of a cat. Cats spend most of their waking hours grooming. When doing so, their rough tongues can help detangle any knots in the fur, grab debris, and trap any loose strands of hair that come loose during grooming. Any loose strands that are caught are usually swallowed, which leads to cats coughing up hairballs.
They also play an important factor when it comes to hunting for food. Not only do the curved barbs help cats hold their prey, but it also helps them tear through flesh, and lick and pick up some pieces that might have been missed. Afterwards, cats will groom themselves to get rid of any traces of a kill in order to prevent any predators from picking up the scent. Ive often wondered why they often groom themselves right after eating.
So the cat sense of taste and their rough tongue play an important role in how and what they eat.