How do cats use their sense of taste?

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Cats actually do not have a highly refined sense of taste. A cat’s tongue has many functions, like removing feathers and fur from prey, and cleaning meat off bones. When drinking water, the tongue mimics a spoon, allowing liquid to be lapped up in greater quantity.

Taste buds are only present on the side and the tip of the tongue. Experts say cats can tell the difference between all flavors, but very few “sweets” as we think of them. There are a few sweet-sensitive taste buds at the back of the feline tongue, but very few.

In comparison to humans, who have 9,000 taste buds, a cat has only 473. (Dogs have 1,700.) In cats, the sense of taste and smell are closely linked via a structure called Jacobson’s organ.

Behind a cat’s upper front teeth, there are two small openings that might be compared to a second set of nostrils. These structures allow the cat to essentially taste scents. A cat will not eat what he cannot smell.

But in terms of actual discernment of being “finicky,” it’s not so much taste that will lead a cat to walk away as other factors like texture. Some cats like pate over chunky, for instance, and cats with long whiskers may simply not like the stress of these sensory organs dragging on the side of the bowl. Objecting to the taste of the food may be only a small part of the equation.

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