Cats are renowned for their finely tuned senses, making them one of the best predators. But if felines have one area of weakness, that will be their sense of taste.
Humans have around 9,000 taste buds while your cat only has 470. Furthermore, cats cannot taste sweet which is usually associated with carbs. And cats do not really need to taste sweets because they are obligate carnivores. They do, however, can taste fats which some desserts palatable to them.
Furthermore, cats can also recognize bitter and sour tastes. Recognizing these tastes are vital for their survival because these are usually associated with harmful substances.
Can cats taste spicy?
Can cats taste spicy food? Technically, the answer is no, cats cannot actually taste the spiciness in food. Most likely, they are drawn to spicy foods because more often than not, spicy foods are cooked with meats as the primary ingredients. However, the capsaicin in chilies, which is responsible for the hot sensation in spicy foods, can affect them just like humans.
Capsaicin and animals
The members of the Capsicum plant family, which includes your favorite spicy chilies, have evolved so that their seeds are dispersed by birds. The taste receptors of birds do not react to capsaicin. Furthermore, when avians consume chilies, the seeds of the plant pass through their digestive tract without being damaged. And when these creatures pass the seeds, these can germinate later on.
On the other hand, when mammals like humans and cats eat chilies, the seeds are destroyed and cannot germinate. This is because mammals have molars. Capsicum plants have evolved this way to entice animals that can spread their seeds and discourage those that cannot.
Now, this begs the question of why some people (and even some cats) enjoy eating spicy foods.
When you eat spicy food, the capsaicin content of your meal is interpreted by your body as a pain sensation. In reaction to this pain, your body releases endorphins which are chemicals that give you a feeling of pleasure.
Cats also react to capsaicin the way people do. After taking a bite out of a spicy dish, your cat’s eye will begin to tear out and his nose starts to run.
If your cat spits out the spicy food out of pain, his suffering will end. However, if he swallows even a few bites of the spicy food, the capsaicin in the meal can irritate the lining of his throat and stomach. And when this happens, he can vomit and suffer from diarrhea until the remnants of the capsaicin have been successfully eliminated.
Possible reasons why your cat loves spicy food
Apart from humans, the only other mammal that enjoys eating spicy foods is the Chinese tree shrew. If this is the case, and if your cat cannot actually taste spicy food, why is it attracted to this type of meal? Here are a few possible reasons why.
1. Attracted by the scent
If cats have a poor sense of taste, they more than compensate with their highly-developed sense of smell. In fact, they use their sense of smell to “taste” meals. If they are attracted to spicy foods, one possible reason behind that is because these meals have a strong, aromatic scent that can whet your pet’s appetite.
2. Warm temperature
You have probably observed that cats hate foods that come straight from the refrigerator. But if you heat the same food they will wolf it down without any second thought. As carnivores, cats love consuming warm food because it reminds them of freshly-caught prey. And because spicy foods are typically served fresh off the oven, your cat is irresistibly drawn to your meal.
More often than not, spicy foods are made with meats like beef, chicken, and lamb, which are all appealing to felines. In fact, these are used in manufacturing cat food. If your cat is drawn to spicy food, it is highly probable that he is attracted to the meat and not the spice.
Can you give a cat food with spices?
Apart from dishes made with chilies, your pet may also want to sample foods made with other spices. Here is a brief look at the possible effects of these.
In small quantities, hot sauce is not toxic to felines. However, even the smallest amount of hot sauce can elicit the same reaction from your cat as from you: Runny nose, tearing, and diarrhea. Although it is generally harmless, avoid giving your pet hot sauce.
Thinking of giving a small bit of pepperoni to your cat? Do not. Although pepperoni is made out of meat, it contains a substantial amount of sodium. The high amount of salt found in pepperoni can put your pet at risk of contracting kidney disease. Furthermore, cured meats like pepperoni and salami, are not cooked in a conventional way. Instead, these meats are air-dried and fermented. As such, these may contain trace amounts of harmful bacteria.
Pumpkin spice consists of several ingredients, including cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Most of these are toxic to cats. Cinnamon, for example, poses several problems, including mouth irritation, diarrhea, liver, and heart problems. Nutmeg contains myristicin which can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, stomach pain, and hallucination in cats. Ginger can cause lethargy and stomach.
Like pumpkin spice, curry is made out of several ingredients. Some of these ingredients are toxic to felines even in the smallest of quantities. As such, do not give your pet dishes made with curry.
Discouraging your cat from begging for food
Although spicy foods are not necessarily toxic to cats in small quantities, you should not give your pet these foods. In fact, you should discourage your pet from begging for human food.
Here are a few tips to help curb your feline’s begging behavior.
1. Make the dining table a cat-free zone
If possible, do not allow your cat to go to the dining room. If that is not possible, remove your cat from the room during meal times while saying no to him.
2. Your cat should only eat food from his bowl
Under no circumstance should you let your cat eat on the dinner table or from your plate. Cat food should go into his food bowl and that is the only place where he should eat from.
3. Do not give your cat human food
Apart from the fact that some people’s food is harmful to felines, allowing your pet to sample your meals encourages him to beg. As much as possible, you should only give him food and treats specially made for cats.
4. Let your cat eat before you
Schedule your cat’s mealtimes slightly ahead of yours. When your cat is already full from his meal, he is less likely to ask for your food. If your cat is full after eating his meal, he is most likely to take a nap or groom himself instead of lingering around the food table asking for your food.
Do not give your cat spicy food
Although spicy foods are not necessarily toxic to cats, you should discourage him from begging you to taste your meals. Cats should only eat meals that are specially made for them, whether those are commercially manufactured or lovingly made by you.
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