What Does Cat Food Taste Like? I Can Tell You — I Tried It


Editor’s Note: Louise Hung writes for Catster and our sister SAY Media site, xojane.com. This article first ran on xoJane, but we’re rerunning it (with permission!) so you readers can comment on it.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve tasted cat food.

But as I explained to my co-workers, I have a Fear Factor gene or something in me that impels me to taste almost anything as long as it doesn’t harm me or kill me.

I often feel my whole being perk up when I hear the words, “Eww! Who would eat that?” Because more often than not, I would.

I’ll fully admit that in the past it has been a bid for attention. When I was in sixth grade, and at a new school, a bunch of the girls dumped a mish-mash of chocolate pudding (my kryptonite), hot sauce, mashed potatoes, ketchup, mustard, and pickle juice into a cup, mixed it all up, and I ate a spoonful. Then I barfed. But I was “cool” for about 3.25 seconds.

Since then it has become more of a curiosity thing. I’m a slave to my nose, and if I can find something remotely appetizing (as honestly I do most things), I’ll taste it. I work part time in a “high end” pet store, and a lot of foods and treats we sell smell pretty damn tempting.

So when my boss, who has deviously caught onto my, “I’ll try anything!” guinea pig mentality, says, “Hey! Louise! Would you try this?” with a playful glint in her eye, my daredevil tastebuds get the better of me and I just HAVE TO KNOW how something tastes.

Let me clear a few things up, though. A lot of pet foods have components that are NOT safe for humans to consume, particularly raw or freeze-dried-raw ingredient. Cats’ and dogs’ stomaches can digest bacteria and organisms that we typically cannot. Unless you’re in a zombie apocalypse situation (anyone remember that scene from Walking Dead in which Carl decides to eat a can of dog food and Rick takes it away from him?), eating your cat or dog’s food isn’t something I’d recommend.

THAT BEING SAID. As an obsessive cat parent with access to some pretty fancy cat food with “human grade” ingredients (still not okay to chow down on a bowl of cat food, as “human grade” doesn’t mean “fit for human consumption”), I’ve often looked down at kitty’s bowl and wondered…

While mixing up some dehydrated fish and turkey cat food that smelled like a really weird Thanksgiving dinner, I got a little bit of the gruel on my fingers, and licked off a smidge with my tongue.

You know that “yuck shiver dance” thing you do when you taste a gamey, bland-yet-salty glob of mush? Or you know, when you eat something everything in your being is telling you, “DON’T EAT THAT!”? Yeah, I did that. It was not good.

Because, Louise, it’s CAT FOOD. Dummy.

You’d think I’d learn my lesson.

However, recently while experimenting with raw sardines in my cat’s diet, I again tasted a little bit of what was going into kitty’s stomach. I like strong fishy fishy fishy foods! How bad could this black, gray slurry of fish be?

Bad. Really bad.

It tasted, like the raw food distributor for our store told me it smelled, like “fish garbage.” Briny, unnervingly fishy with very little depth, and a tad sour. My cats yelped at my feet for the goodness that was intended for them, but I just stood there and gagged.

Nothing could get that taste out of my mouth.

It wasn’t all “caviar and champagne” cat food. When I was a teenager, I popped some cat-food kibble into my mouth (I think it was something by Purina). It was almost tasteless and very crunchy. I couldn’t really taste the chicken in it, and really the overwhelming flavor to me was how I imagine cardboard would taste.

I’ve tried pumpkin-sweet potato dog treats, baked in a human kitchen and meant to be shared with your dog. Not bad, again, a little bland, but a little like a gritty, undersugared “Teddy Grahams.”

I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that one of my favorite snacks is Okinawan Sweet Potato Jerky treats for dogs. It’s a purple potato that’s been sliced, lightly boiled, then dehydrated. I don’t generally eat land animals (unless I’m sampling cat food), and the slightly sweet, chewy, leathery texture satisfies my beef jerky needs. (By the way, this snack is made by my boss in her own kitchen, so I know where it came from and the cleanliness that goes into its preparation.)

Why, oh WHY do I do this?

Frankly, because I’m curious. As a self-proclaimed Pet Food Snob who reads pet food ingredients more meticulously than I do those on my own food, I’d like to know a little bit what fancy cat food tastes like. There’s SOME logic in that right?

Yes, I know cats and dogs taste foods differently than humans do. Cats, for example, can’t taste as strongly as we do, have a better sense of smell, but cannot taste sweetness, hence the bland flavor of an otherwise aromatic cat food. As a human I’m used to sweetening and seasoning and all sorts of taste amplifiers that make my food palatable (even if it’s not healthy).

And yes, I know cats and dogs have evolved to like the taste of foods that are good for them and will keep them alive. Their food is not meant for me.

But, and I don’t know whether it’s my compulsive tendencies driving me toward tasting cat food, a part of me just needs to know, even a little bit, what they are tasting.

Am I going to cook up a cat food stir-fry like food blogger Colin McQuistan did? No. That’s going too far even for me, whatever that means.

So there you have it. I ate cat food, and I lived to tell about about it. I’m happy to have my curiosity quelled, but really, I hope my samplings are enough to quell yours.

Read more by Louise Hung:

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