Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Does your cat eat earwax from people? Fascinating, isn’t it? Actually it’s perfectly normal behaviour…for your cat anyway.
You see, cats don’t have as many taste buds as we humans do i.e. around 10,000 against their 500. You’ll notice that your cat tends to sniff her food before she eats it. That’s because she goes by the nutritional value rather than the taste which she picks by her sensitive sense of smell.
Cats still have the four basic taste types of sour, bitter, salt and sweet like we do - their response to sweet being the weakest. It is also our sense of smell which determines why different foods 'taste' different (although have you noticed that some foods smell better than they taste?) Anyway, back to your cat – it’s reasonable to assume that cats use a similar determination of smell and taste in deciding the palatability of their food.
It follows then that cats rarely reject food simply on the basis of its taste. Using their sense of smell, the cats subconsciously realise that earwax is good stuff - by the scent of the fatty acids, the cholesterol, and also the dead skin cells (mostly protein). Cats are specifically keen on the scent of animal proteins, hence why they like meat – and why they hungrily devour earwax.
The ratio of smell receptors to taste receptors is virtually reversed in cats and humans. Therefore if something smells good but tastes like old socks then we won't eat it. However, cats will eat almost anything if it sure smells good!
So, with our increased sensitivity to taste, we will generally reject eating earwax because of its sour, bitter taste (I’m told!) and hopefully for the sheer yuckiness of it. On the contrary the sour and bitter flavour of the earwax is barely noticeable to our not so fussy cats in this regard, in comparison to its wholesome, nutritious odour.
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