Palatability of Cat Foods

Cats are very choosy diners. A cat can enjoy a food for many years, only to turn her nose up at it one day out of the blue. What causes cats to be so finicky? If there is no medical reason for the behavior change, there are several other things to look at.


Palatability is the word used to describe how well an animal likes the flavor, aroma and texture of a food. While taste and smell are very important to a cat, the shape and texture are equally as important. When approaching a food, the first thing a cat does is sniff it. If it passes the sniff test, they'll give it a try. Shape and texture determine whether or not the cat will continue to eat the food. The way it breaks apart in the mouth, the size, and moisture content are all considerations. Studies show that cats continually prefer a new or fresh shape or flavor of food. Moisture, fat content, meat additives, proteins and acidity are also things that will determine palatability. Pet food companies consider all of these things when formulating pet food.


Cats are notoriously picky and their eating preferences are greatly individual. Some cats will starve before eating a food that they find offensive. It can be useful to bring in an assortment of flavors and textures to a cat's diet. Some things that can sway a cat's perception of flavor include aroma, taste, consistency and temperature. Cats possess taste buds on their tongues that react favorably to substances classified as salty, tart or acidic. Cats do not appear to be attracted to sweet tasting substances.


Cats have a far more sensitive olfactory apparatus (sense of smell) than do humans. The apparent aroma from food is especially necessary for your pet to start eating. If the aroma is notably delicious, that alone is enough to get her to eat a particular food.


Cats are incapable of chewing efficiently. Therefore, they must reduce the size of food by slicing or cutting it into smaller pieces, which can then be more easily swallowed. Moist food can be eaten quickly, while comparatively, dry calorie-dense food is usually consumed more slowly.


The warmth of food seems to play an important role in palatability of food as well. Warm temperature increases the aroma of the food and also resembles freshly killed prey more closely.

Stress and Nutrition

Adult cats under stress are inclined to decrease their food intake, and they tend to refuse foods that remind them of a stressful experience. The area of feeding can also affect a cat's stress level. Noise and harsh lighting can make a cat refuse to eat. Cats will also refuse foods that are deficient in certain trace minerals and vitamins like thiamine.


The ability to smell and taste can diminish with age. Some cats refuse a food that they have been eating for years due to decreased olfactory senses.