Do Cats Have Taste Buds?

Do Cats Have Taste Buds

Cats tend to be finicky about their food and can be very picky eaters, unwilling to try food that is new or different from what they are used to eating. Evolution plays a big role in this fussy eating: felines are driven to consume food that has a particular ratio of protein to fat. In this article, we will get to know more about a cat’s sense of taste and why felines are picky eaters. 

Do cats have taste buds?

Yes, cats have taste buds, but far fewer than humans do. While humans have about 9,000 taste buds divided into sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savory, cats have only 480 taste buds. Cats are responsive to only four basic tastes, and the sweet taste is almost non-existent because they are strict carnivores. 

Cats make up for this deficiency with their superior sense of smell, so it stands to reason that they prefer warm food, as the heat intensifies the aroma. 

Some surprising facts about a cat’s taste buds 

1. A cat’s sense of taste is weak.

Cats have heightened senses, except for their sense of taste. However, this does not mean that they taste less. Their perception of taste is different and smell is a major stimulant of their appetite, but taste does also play a role.

Also check out our earlier post, Can cats taste spicy? 

2. A cat’s taste buds are located around the edges of the tongue.

A cat’s taste buds are located on the sides, rear and tip of the tongue, all around the edges. The tongue’s main surface is reserved for the small barbs that assist in grooming and moving food in the mouth. 

3. Cats do not like the taste of anything bitter. 

Cats have roughly 12 different receptors for bitter and are strongly sensitive to the bitter compounds found in certain toxins. This is said to discourage cats from eating poisonous prey like reptiles. This sensitivity has a disadvantage to pet owners, however, since it makes cats very averse to medications, which often taste bitter and unpleasant to them. 

4. Cats have an intriguing way of tasting food. 

Cats have a unique sense receptor called the Jacobson’s organ. This is located on the roof of the mouth and used by animals to “taste-smell” the aromas around them like food and pheromones. Odors are inhaled onto the cat’s tongue, which is used to transfer the scents to the mouth’s roof. Through this, cats can taste the essence of aromas. 

The Jacobson’s organ is also called an auxiliary sense, and it connects the mouth to the nasal passage. Aside from cats, other animals that have this organ include dogs, horses, goats, cattle, pigs and lizards.  

5. The temperature of food, along with its smell and taste, is important to a cat. 

Cats tend to prefer warm food, somewhere around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is similar to the temperature of freshly-killed prey. Most cats tend to reject cold food taken directly from the fridge. 

Cats are obligate carnivores and are “programmed” to consume meat. They do not need to consume sugar or carbohydrates, and there is no reason for them to taste them. The taste receptors that react to meat and fats are the driving factors in a cat’s appetite. Some cat owners claim that their cats are attracted to ice cream and candy; in this case it is not the sweet taste they are drawn to, but rather the fat content of those foods. 

Cats also have preferences when it comes to the consistency of their food, and prefer large pieces over crumbs for their kibbles. They also prefer soft food over hard food. The shape of their food is also important, and they like kibbles that vary in shape. 

Foods that cats love to eat

Food that cats should not eat

  • Grapes and raisins 
  • Chocolate
  • Bread dough 
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onion and garlic 


Cats tend to be very picky with their food despite having only about 480 taste buds. They can taste bitter, salty, savory, and sour, but they cannot taste sweet. Most felines are unwilling to taste unfamiliar food and are drawn instinctively to food that is protein- or fat-based, such as meat, which is what they would eat when hunting in the wild. 

Image: / LSOphoto