The senses of smell and taste are closely linked for many animals, but especially so in cats. A cat presented with new food will most likely sniff it first, then lick it to confirm their initial assessment… unless the initial assessment was YUCK! Then it does not pass go, walk away, look unamused, lick yourself, look up and go MEOW!
This close linking between a cat’s sense of smell and taste is obvious, less obvious is why last week’s favourite food is this week’s food your cat rejects.
Your cat has taste bugs on the front, sides and back of their tongue. Unlike most mammals such as humans and dogs, cats have no ‘sweet is good!’ message programmed into their tastebuds and will not respond with eagerness to eat when presented with sweet tastes. They generally don’t tolerate sugar well and sweet foods will lead to diarrhoea. They are far more attracted to oily and salty tastes.. thus fatty, salty fishy tasting sardines and tuna are usual favourites. Sweet tasting milk is an enigma with most cats lapping it up, regardless that it’s sweet. Lactose sugar can be especially unsettling for a cat’s digestive system so in most cases, water is better.
A cat unwell with a respiratory infection that suppresses their sense of smell will be unlikely to eat. It’s not just their general malaise that will put them off food… without being able to properly smell and taste their food they can’t tell if it’s safe to it so their instincts are to not take the chance. Tempt sick, fasting cats with strong-smelling foods such as grilled livers, sardines or tuna. Be careful with the tuna as this smelly, oily fish has been known to be so enjoyed by cats that once exposed to it, they will seek to be fed nothing else.