Wednesday, December 9, 2009 11:06 AM

Do Cats Have a Sweet Tooth?


A few years ago, I read an article in the newspaper trumpeting the latest research regarding cats: Despite what people may think, they really do not have a sweet tooth. Well! Not only do I know that this is untrue, it also made me wonder who might be funding this research, and why. So I did a little hunting on the internet to refresh my memory.

The article, Pseudogenization of a Sweet-Receptor Gene Accounts for Cats' Indifference toward Sugar by Xia Li et al, purports to prove that cats have no interest in sugary foods because evolution has, by favoring their carnivorous nature, let atrophy a specific gene necessary for an animal to detect sweet tastes. There is really no explanation for this theory, such as why this occurred with cats and not dogs, who also hunted for food way back when, and have a very similar tooth structure to cats. Maybe it is because of the cat's reluctance to totally embrace domestication, the way the dog has. Who knows? Certainly not these researchers.

That being said, I think I will have to disagree with their findings. Now, I have had many cats over the years and many of them have exhibited an inclination to sample human sweet treats, when the opportunity arises. I include the present lot in this characterization (see photo above). When they were kittens, I recall J. calling me at work to tell me a funny story: He had left a scone unattended for a few minutes, come back to pour his tea and found the scone had gone AWOL. A quick search turned up the pastry and three kittens, who had secreted the treat underneath the futon bed in the spare room. They were all having a hearty snack when J. thundered into the room. He's never quite gotten over it.

I realize that some of this interest in sweets could just be the fact that they want to investigate whatever we are eating. That can't be the whole story, though, since we often have homemade popcorn, and none of them will go near it. Neither do they like salty chips, which might be expected, another snack we have fairly often. They do, however, express vivid interest in various desserts and baked goods such as muffins.

Therefore, I would suggest that researchers give it another try, with a few changes. First, get a few cats, say 3 or 4, just enough to foster the competitive spirit. Then, spoil the heck out of them. Next, purchase one scone, place it on the counter, set up the camera, and leave the room. Post the resultant video on YouTube. This may not pass muster as true scientific method, but I bet it will get a lot more attention!
Chat later!

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Amanda
Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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