😺 The Science Behind Cat’s Tuna Obsession: It’s All About Umami
Scientists have uncovered an intriguing aspect of cat taste buds—they have a knack for umami, that savoury goodness found in mouthwatering meats. Umami appears to be the primary flavour cats seek out.
In one experiment, researchers from the Waltham Petcare Science Institute in the UK embarked on a culinary journey with 25 curious cats. Imagine this: two bowls of water, one infused with various combinations of amino acids and nucleotides, the other with plain water. The feline participants left no room for doubt—they unequivocally favoured the bowl that contained molecules found in umami-rich foods, suggesting that this flavour is their preferred option.
But here’s the kicker: it wasn’t just any umami that got their tails wagging. Cats exhibited a distinct penchant for bowls brimming with histidine and inosine monophosphate, two compounds reminiscent of the flavorful delights found in a tuna steak.
Now, why the unwavering obsession with tuna? After all, our feline companions trace their origins back to the Middle East around 10,000 years ago, when fish was not on their menu.
This taste for fish likely evolved over millennia, as evidenced by ancient Egyptian art dating back over 3,500 years, portraying cats indulging in fish. Cats are masterful opportunistic hunters, seizing the opportunity to feast on seafood when residing near ports where such culinary delights are readily available.
Today, more than 6 per cent of the world’s fish catch goes to producing cat food. Thanks to scientists’ cat fetish (no judgement on my part!), we now know why.
Illustration: Elia Kabanov feat. MidJourney.