Cats are curious creatures. If they sense something new, they’ll surely wander around it, chase it, lick it, or even swallow it.
And their strong sense of smell won’t definitely snub the captivating scent of spicy foods. Hence, as pet parents, we can’t help but wonder, “Can cats taste spicy” or “Can cats eat/taste spicy food?”
How Do Cats’ Taste Receptors Work?
Our kitty buddies are known to be excellent predators – thanks to their innate extraordinary senses. However, if they have one area of weakness, then, that would be their sense of taste. Unlike us, humans with around 9,000 taste buds, cats only have 470.
Furthermore, cats cannot taste sweet, which is usually associated with carbs. And this is definitely just fine since they are obligate carnivores after all.
They rely mostly on proteins from meat, and not on the carbohydrates from human foods like sugary cakes, pastries, and dairy products.
Nonetheless, they do taste fats, which is possibly the reason why some cats also have a penchant for sweets that we, humans, enjoy.
Cats don’t have a sweet tooth, but they do have a bitter tooth, which comes in handy for their protection. Cats have 12 different receptors in their tongues for bitter taste and at least seven of which are active.
Their incredible ability to taste bitterness in food and water is vital to keep them from being poisoned. Some of the toxic animals that they can prey on but they won’t because of their bitter taste are poisonous toads and insects.
In addition to bitter flavors, cats can also detect salty, sour, and meaty/savory (also known as “umami”) flavors. But again, can cats taste spicy? Let’s find out the answer below.
Can Cats Taste Spicy Foods?
You might be quick to judge that cats can taste spicy foods and they love eating spicy foods because they always steal your chili con carne on your dinner table.
But in reality, they are not attracted to the spiciness of such a meal because they cannot taste spicy food. Again, spicy tastes don’t register with cats.
It’s most likely that cats are drawn to spicy foods because most often these are cooked with meats as the main ingredients. And though cats can’t taste anything spicy, they can still feel the hot sensation brought about by the capsaicin in chilies.
As such, felines may not recognize the mild spices like nutmeg or cinnamon, but they can recognize the spice from hot peppers like chilies and jalapenos.
Again, this is because the heat that they feel doesn’t come from the taste of the peppers but from a reaction to the capsaicin.
Cats react to capsaicin the same as humans. After taking a quick bite of a spicy dish, the capsaicin will irritate pain sense receptors inside their mouth.
As a result, your cat’s eyes will begin to tear out and his nose will start to run. And your feline companion won’t definitely be pleased, and that’s why you should not feed him foods with hot sauce and spicy pepper.
Your cat’s suffering will end once he spits out the spicy food due to pain. However, if he ends up swallowing even just a small bite of the spicy chicken or beef, the capsaicin can irritate the lining of his throat and stomach.
Once this happens, your cat will vomit and suffer from diarrhea until he completely expels any trace of capsaicin inside his digestive system.
What Happens If Cats Taste and Eat Spicy Food?
If cats eat and taste spicy foods, it won’t just be their mouth that will be affected, but also their digestive tract. As soon as the capsaicin gets into your cat’s mouth, he will feel uncomfortable and he will develop the urge to spit out the food immediately.
However, if your cat ends up swallowing even a bit of the spicy food, the capsaicin will irritate the lining of his throat and stomach.
As a result, your cat will still end up vomiting the food and he may also have diarrhea until there is no remaining trace of the capsaicin inside his tummy.
Also, as a result of diarrhea and vomiting caused by spicy food intake, your cat may be at risk for dehydration. This could aggravate their natural proclivity to be dehydrated since cats are not really fond of drinking water.
Hence, as always, it’s better to err on the side of caution. If this happens, immediately seek professional help from a nearby veterinarian.
Why Cats Love Spicy Foods
If cats can’t taste the palatable flavor of spicy foods, then, why do they love these sizzling hot dishes? Are we missing something or do they really love spicy foods at all?
According to National Geographic, aside from humans, the only mammal that seeks out spicy food is the Chinese tree shrew.
So, if this is the case and cats cannot taste spicy foods at all, then, why are they attracted to these meals? Are they just tired of eating the same cat foods over and over again? Or is there a science behind their natural attraction to chilies and peppers?
Below are possible reasons why cats love spicy foods even if they can’t taste these dishes:
1. Cats are attracted by the smell.
Just like us, humans, cats don’t just rely on their sense of taste to enjoy their meal. They also use their strong sense of smell to recognize and appreciate what they are eating even more. And if they don’t like the smell of the food, they will most likely snub it.
With their natural inclination to smell their food before they eat it, it’s not surprising why they have a strong affinity towards spicy food.
As we all know, spicy foods have an extremely strong and aromatic scent that would make you salivate. And such a distinct smell is one of the reasons why cats are drawn towards spicy foods. Moreover, if they see us devouring our spicy dish with gusto, they will be more curious to give the food a try.
2. They love the warm temperature of spicy foods.
As a cat parent, you should probably know by now that cats don’t like it when you serve them with cat food that comes straight from the refrigerator.
However, if you heat the same food, they can consume it in a heartbeat. As carnivores, it is just normal for cats to munch on warm foods because these remind them of the temperature of freshly caught prey.
They don’t like cold foods. Cats prefer their food to be a bit hot, just like the temperature of spicy foods. And most often, spicy food is served hot (but not flaming hot), which is why cats are tempted to eat these tasty dishes. But don’t get us wrong – cats don’t like meals that are straight from the oven either.
3. They love the tender and meat-based texture of spicy dishes.
Most of the time, spicy foods are meat-based. So, whether it’s an Indian curry chicken or beef with a lot of spices or another spicy dish made from lamb meat, your cats will find these foods appetizing.
However, it’s not just because of the smell, but by the very fact that these are made from meat, which is hard for them to resist.
Is it Okay to Give Cats Foods With Spices?
Aside from dishes that are filled with chilies, your cats may also be tempted to try other foods that are packed with different spices.
We know that garlic and onions are toxic to cats, but this time, let’s check out what spices can cause some allergic reactions and other side effects to our furry companions.
When taken in huge amounts, cinnamon can cause some allergic reactions to your cat’s skin, or irritate his mouth. Don’t be surprised if you see your cat with rashes or redness on areas that came in contact with cinnamon.
Exposure to large doses of cinnamon powder or essential oil can cause stomach upset, decrease blood pressure, diarrhea, vomiting, or even liver disease.
Inhalation of cinnamon powder or vapor, on the other hand, may choke your cat, cause breathing difficulties, irritate his lungs, and make him cough.
Although it’s pretty much harmless, you should avoid giving your cats foods with hot sauce. Even the smallest amount of hot sauce can cause discomfort to cats the same way as humans. They can get a runny nose, teary eyes, and diarrhea.
Pumpkin spice contains several ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Most of these are toxic to cats.
For instance, nutmeg contains myristicin which can cause increased heart rate, stomach pain, high blood pressure, and hallucination in cats. Ginger can cause some stomach problems and lethargy.
The tasty flavor and strong scent of curry are the gastronomic outcomes from mixing different spices. And we can’t emphasize enough that most, if not all of these ingredients, are harmful to cats.
As such, to be on the safe side, it’s best to skip any dish with curry for your cat’s meal or even treats.
You may be tempted to give your cats even a bit of pepperoni, but don’t give in to their begging gestures and noise for their own good.
Despite being a lump of meat and a good source of protein, pepperoni contains a high amount of sodium, which is responsible for its saltiness. And we all know that salt can put cats at risk for kidney problems.
Moreover, cured meats like salami and pepperoni aren’t cooked conventionally. They are fermented and air-dried, so these meats can harbor bacteria that can be harmful to cats.
While you only want to encourage your cats to eat well and put on those pounds, you can still do so without putting their health and safety at risk. Knowing by now that spicy foods are harmful to cats, you should never give in even if they are showing interest in what you are eating.
Instead of allowing your cats to taste and eat even the tiniest amount of spicy food, simply feed them with cat foods that are packed with the nutrition that they need. And with that, you may decrease your chances of having to go to the vet anytime soon.
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