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Do Cats Like the Taste of Sweet Things? Vet-Approved Facts & Safety Tips

Written by: Jeff Weishaupt

Last Updated on January 24, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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Do Cats Like the Taste of Sweet Things? Vet-Approved Facts & Safety Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you own a dog, you probably already know that chocolate is toxic for them. But what about cats? We don’t see them going near chocolates and sweets too often. Does this mean cats don’t like the taste of sweets? Well, actually, they can’t sense sweetness at all!1

You may find your furry friend licking marshmallows and candies, but that’s rare. Most cats aren’t motivated to eat sweets. So, should you give your cat sweets? Is it safe for them?

If you’ve just become a cat parent, you may find it hard to decide what to give to your new family member. After all, you can’t risk your pet’s health. Worry not! This guide will answer all your questions about this topic.

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Do Cats Like Sweets?

Cats can’t like or dislike sweets since they don’t have a “sense of taste” for sweets2. A study found that cats are one of the rarest mammals that lack the proteins required to produce genes responsible for sensing sweetness.

In humans, the taste bud is made of two proteins. Unfortunately, cats only have one. This means when your cat eats candy, they taste something other than what the common concept about “sweet” is. For example, marshmallows may taste like chicken to them.

So, why does your cat try to take a bite of your candies or ice cream? That’s just their curiosity to try something different. Or maybe, they like the smell of your food.

Beautiful feline cat eating on a metal bowl
Photo Credit: Krakenimages.com, Shutterstock

The Unique Taste Buds of Cats

Cats and humans differ considerably in the amount and type of taste buds. Humans have about 9,000 taste buds, with five types being the most prominent: bitter, sour, sweet, salty, and umami (meaty taste). Comparatively, cats only possess 500 taste buds and lack the one important protein that identifies sweetness3.

Cats are sensitive to the bitter taste of spoiled foods. This is why many cat owners use bitter sprays to prevent cats from biting household items and licking their wounds.

Can Cats Process Carbohydrates?

Cats can’t process carbohydrates, which is the primary component in most sweets. The reason behind it might seem strange, but it is understandable from the biological point of view. The system of cats is designed to process non-carbs, particularly meaty items. This is why they’re obligate carnivores.

You will see cats chasing mice instead of searching for food in the fields. In fact, larger animals in the cat family, like tigers and lions, hunt down deer and antelopes. No cat species looks for fruits or any other carbohydrate source.

Unfortunately, unprocessed carbohydrates can be extremely dangerous for your cat, leading to diabetes, obesity, and many other issues.

So, if your cat doesn’t eat carbohydrate-rich food, know that they’re doing this to protect themself. But having small amounts of carbohydrates is essential for your cat’s daily nutrition. Wild cats can get their daily carbs by feeding on the stomach contents of their prey. Some cats also like grass.

The problem only occurs when your cat ingests table sugar or artificial sweeteners. In such a case, your feeling friend will be in extreme discomfort and may vomit. Too much sugar in a day can also lead to dental issues, diabetes, and obesity in your cat.

Cat eating melons
Photo Credit: Guajillo Studio, Shutterstock

Why Do Cat Foods Contain Carbohydrates?

Now, you must be wondering: If cats can’t process carbohydrates, why do most cat foods have them? Vets also recommend cat owners buy high-protein foods for their feeling friends instead of high-carb ones. They also associated high-carb cat foods with obesity and diabetes.

Fortunately, high-protein foods have almost replaced high-carb ones over the years. Nowadays, you can easily find low-carb, high-protein food for your cat. But be cautious since the market still has lots of high-carb cat items.

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Why Does Your Cat Seem Interested in Sweets?

So, cats don’t have sweet taste buds, but why do they come running whenever you open a sweet? You may have noticed this, right? Here are some reasons your cat may seem interested in particular treats.

Curiosity

As we all know, cats are some the most curious pets worldwide. These adorable animals don’t know how to sit idly. You will always find them playing with or biting household items whenever they get bored. If not, they will come to you for cuddles.

The bottom line is that cats are super curious. Thus, whenever they hear the crunching sound of a sweet wrapper, they run toward you to see what you’re eating. They may even ask you for a bite to discover the taste. But that doesn’t mean your cat wants to eat the snack, and you may see them spilling the treat instead if they don’t like the taste.


Love for Fats and Proteins

Fats and proteins are the favorite food of cats. In fact, most cat snacks are rich in fat and protein because cats can taste both of these nutrients. So, whenever your feline sees you eating something sweet, they may come by to check whether the food contains fats or proteins.


Your Cat Is Special

Some cats are different from the rest. If your cat is unique, they may eat sweets along with their favorite meals, like meat and cat food. However, you must control their sugar intake to maintain optimal health.

cat after eating food from a plate
Photo Credit: mik ulyannikov, Shutterstock

cat paw dividerAre There Any Sweets Toxic to Cats?

While some cats can eat candies, it doesn’t mean they can have any kind of sweets. Sugar isn’t toxic to felines, but some ingredients can be.

  • Chocolate. Chocolate of any kind is dangerous for pets. Dark chocolate is primarily associated with an upset stomach, seizures, arrhythmias, and muscle tremors in cats and dogs. When these conditions become severe, your pet can also die.
  • Caffeine. Caffeine causes similar effects in pets as in chocolates. It can lead to severe digestion issues.
  • Grapes. Grapes, whether in dried form (raisins) or fresh, can cause mild to severe kidney issues in pets.
Sick cat in animal hospital
Image Credit: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock

Tips to Keep Your Cat Safe

Since cats are curious and active pets, they can access sweets and candies from the top of a shelf or kitchen counter. So, you must keep sweet items in inaccessible places. But it can be impossible sometimes.

You should know how to react if you find your cat eating sweets.

Here are a few tips to keep your cats safe from sweet things:
  • Always put the sweets in high and hard-to-reach areas. Pay extra attention to the ingredients that are toxic to cats as well.
  • Keep your garbage can covered to prevent your cat from diving into it.
  • Inform everyone in your home about why they shouldn’t give candies or sweets to cats.
  • Offer healthy alternatives to your cat, such as chicken or turkey pieces, without any seasoning or sauces. Soon enough, you will find your cat getting excited to see such treats and won’t even go near sweets.
  • A cat’s preferences mainly depend on its habits. If you keep treating your cats with healthy options, they will stick to them regularly. Remember, the key is to be consistent.
  • Immediately call a vet if you find your cat eating sweets or candies. Make notes of what your cat ate and its quantity. It’s best to bring the candy wrapper when visiting the vet. You can also call the Animal Poison Control line (ASPCA) for emergency vet practice.
Tabby looking up
Image Credit: Krysten Merriman, Pexels

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Conclusion

Cats are the most curious, fun-loving, and adorable pets. They brighten our lives every day, so we must make the right choices for their health.

Cats generally don’t eat sweet things because they lack the taste buds that identify the sweetness. However, sometimes you may find your cat eating candies and marshmallows. That’s because your pet is more curious and unique than others and confuses proteins and fats with sweets.

Some sweets can even be toxic for your cat, so keeping your feline friend away from candies is important. Opt for healthy alternatives and contact a vet as soon as you find your cat eating candy.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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