Saturday 23 December 2023

The genetic reason why cats can't taste sweetness

There is a scientific reason why cats can't take sweetness and is all about genetics. James G Sanderson and Patrick Watson in their book Small Wild Cats say this about that genetic reason:
"In 2005, scientists discovered that all cats lack one of a pair of proteins required to sense sweetness. The missing protein was the result of a deletion, the loss of part of a chromosome or sequence of DNA in a gene."
In other words, going back a long time in the history of the evolution of the cat, there was a genetic mutation and the interesting argument is that because of that mutation, the entire family of cats became carnivores. It was the beginning of their flesh eating lifestyle.

The point is that plants contain sugars because of photosynthesis and if cats 30 million years ago or 10 million years ago had been able to taste sweetness and enjoy it they would have started to eat plants and perhaps become omnivores like foxes but they became strict or hyper-carnivores able only to enjoy the flesh of animals and nothing else practically. Cats do eat a small amount of plant material for health reasons and the snow leopard is the greatest feline plant eater.

Although cats can detect bitterness, the opposite taste. It is believed to be a survival skill because toxins are often taste bitter. That's why you will find domestic cats leaving the bile duct - the only piece of prey anatomy that they leave behind (sometimes) - after catching a mouse. Bile is bitter and the cat believes that that part of the mouse is toxic.

My further research indicates that this lack of sweet receptors can be boiled down to a lack of the taste receptors known as  "T1R2" and "T1R3," which are responsible for detecting sweetness. They are present in the tongues of humans and are activated by sugar molecules. Without them we would be unable to taste sweetness. But with them we've become addicted to the taste of sweetness! And salts! But that's something else.

RELATED: There are actually 14 benefits to cats through the use of their tongue! Click the link to find out what they are.

Briefly, you might know that the tongue of the domestic cat is an amazing organ with two different types of backward facing papillae which the cat uses to groom themselves and tear the flesh from bones of their prey.

The concept of genetic mutations is very very important. It is how evolution works. When a mutation occurs which is a failure in copying the DNA properly during development, it can make the resultant offspring more able less able to survive in the wild. Or there might be neutral consequence.

If as a consequence of the genetic mutation the offspring survive more efficiently than their siblings and other animals of the same species they will have a greater chance to have their own offspring and over millions of years the only offspring being born will be those carrying the genetic mutation and at that time the species we have evolved into a modified version or an entirely new species. That is how evolution works through natural selection as opposed to artificial selection wishes the process of cat breeding.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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