Finicky Felines

SCIENCE

Why is your cat such a picky eater? It may experience some bitter compounds differently than you do, new research suggests. (Christian Science Monitor)

Learn more about how domestic cats just follow their natural instincts.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

In the wild, cats like this Persian are obligate carnivores. Obligate carnivores depend entirely on meat for food, nutrition, and survival. Domestic cats get their nutrition from specially made food . . . as well as mice, birds, and, possibly, goldfish. Photograph by Willard Culver, National Geographic

In the wild, cats like this blue Persian are obligate carnivores. Obligate carnivores depend entirely on meat for food, nutrition, and survival. Domestic cats get their nutrition from specially made food . . . as well as mice, birds, and, possibly, goldfish.
Photograph by Willard Culver, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

 

  • What other animals do you think might have a highly developed sensitivity to bitter flavors?
    • Other obligate carnivores may have a similar distaste for bitterness: big cats (such as lions and tigers), dolphins, raptors (such as eagles), Tasmanian devilssharks . . .
      Apex predators are important to ecosystems including the African savanna—this lion is native to Serengeti National Park, Tanzania . . .  Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

      Fancy feast for the king of beasts.
      Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

       

  • So, cats have a high sensitivity to bitter flavors. Why is this research important? What organizations do you think funded this research?
    • The research may help pet-food companies make more popular and profitable products.
    • The research was funded by corporations devoted to “pet palatability.” These businesses “partner with pet food manufacturers to create better-tasting dog and cat foods, treats, and supplements.”

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Christian Science Monitor: Why is your cat such a picky eater? Scientists reveal clues.

Nat Geo: Crazy Cats video

Nat Geo: What is a carnivore?

Nat Geo: A Matter of Taste: Discover how we taste what we taste—and why it matters

(extra credit!) BMC Neuroscience: A functional comparison of the domestic cat bitter receptors Tas2r38 and Tas2r43 with their human orthologs

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