Do cats have sweet teeth? Science may have an answer

I swear I have a cat with a sweet tooth. Whenever I’m eating things like sugar cookies, donuts, or cake, Kali is all up in my face, trying to get my food off my plate, out of my hand, and she even sniffs at my mouth if I don’t let her have anything. If I drop a crumb? It’s like dropping a piece of steak or chicken – she is all over it like a vacuum cleaner. Cats are strict carnivores, so what is the deal here? Do cats have sweet teeth?

Science is actually working to answer the question, “Do cats have sweet teeth?”

Do cats have sweet teeth?

Well, according to Scientific American, no. Cats literally have no way to taste sweetness at all, unlike most other mammals. They don’t have the taste receptors necessary to taste sweets, apparently:

“They don’t taste sweet the way we do,” says Joe Brand, biochemist and associate director at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “They’re lucky. Cats really have bad teeth as it is.”

Okay, so what’s the deal with Kali, then? What is it that she tastes or smells in sweets that she absolutely must have?

Some scientists, like those quoted in Scientific American, argue that it’s not so much that cats have sweet teeth as it’s possible that they might be able to taste very high concentrations of sugar. If that’s true, then cats that are more sensitive to sweetness—even if they don’t taste it the way we do—will try and eat our amazing sweet treats.

Maybe it’s not the sweetness they’re after, though

Others arguing against the idea that cats have sweet teeth believe that it’s not the sweetness they want, but rather, they’re going after the fat. Indeed, things like cake, donuts, sugar cookies, and especially frosting, aren’t just high in sugar, they’re high in fat. Cats’ taste receptors are geared to taste fat, so there’s a chance that’s what they’re after.

So, do cats have sweet teeth? Science says no, but there’s so much anecdotal evidence that suggests otherwise that I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer here. And I wholly believe that Kali has a sweet tooth or three.

3 Replies to “Do cats have sweet teeth? Science may have an answer”

  1. Craig Chopak

    It’s a funny thing though, I have read before that Cats can’t taste sweets. That being said, I am not 100% convinced because my long time stray partner in crime Sebastian loves Ice Cream (in fingertip size portions mind you). Maybe he is an anomaly? Don’t know but if he likes it, he gets it. LOL.

    • ourcatsworld Post author

      Yeah everything scientific I’ve read says cats can’t taste sweets. But then there’s Kali, and there’s Sebastian, and and and…

  2. Tai

    I’ve heard them say that for years BUT I have had cats (oddly, all of them were male who did this) who, if ever something sugary came into the home that they could smell, they wanted some and would get pretty insistent about it. I myself have no sweet tooth so I don’t even like the smell of sugar/sugary things but once I came home with a piece of chocolate cake someone insisted on me taking away (it was their birthday). I set the thing down on my desk thinking I’d put it in compost after I washed my hands but when I came back a minute or two later, the male cat had his face in the cake, cake stuff all over his face. I was worried because it was a chocolate cake and frosting–we and the vet kept an eye on him, he was not adversely affected thank goodness. the next male cat we had always wanted a taste of anything sweet–ice cream, M&Ms, or whatever sweet thing people were indulging in. He never ate a lot, just wanted to lick it. He lived to be 18. I don’t know, just seems some cats may find the “smell” of sugary sweet things too attractive. I didn’t find any of our sweet-loving cats much into honey or maple syrup or the like, just mostly sugar used in baking or food making.


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