A recent study has unveiled the biological basis for cats’ love for tuna, a phenomenon that has long puzzled pet owners.
Cats possess a distinctive sense of taste that sets them apart from other animals. The study, published earlier this month in Chemical Senses and reported by Science.org, reveals that their taste buds harbor receptors capable of detecting umami, the rich and savory flavor found in various meats.
Given that cats are obligate carnivores, their inclination towards umami comes as no surprise. However, the study delves further, illuminating the fact that these feline receptors are uniquely attuned to molecules abundant in tuna. This helps explain why cats really love eating tuna.
The lead researcher, Scott McGrane, a flavor scientist from the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, highlighted the significance of this discovery for understanding cats’ preferences, Science.org reported. Cats’ distinctive taste preferences could potentially revolutionize the way pet food companies formulate diets and medications for cats, offering both health benefits and enhanced palatability.
Cats’ taste preferences are intricately linked to their evolutionary history. They lack the ability to taste sugar due to a missing protein, a consequence of their meat-centric diet. Moreover, their fewer bitter taste receptors align with their carnivorous nature. McGrane and his team embarked on a scientific quest to decipher the components of cats’ taste preferences, focusing on the genes Tas1r1 and Tas1r3 that collaborate in taste buds to recognize umami.
According to Science.org, McGrane and colleagues biopsied the tongue of a deceased male cat and revealed the presence of both Tas1r1 and Tas1r3 genes. This marked the first confirmation that cats possess the entire molecular setup to detect umami. Notably, their preference was not just for umami in general – it was honed in on compounds abundant in tuna, like histidine and inosine monophosphate. This explains why tuna resonates so strongly with their taste receptors.