Can Cats Taste Spicy Food?

by Elle Di Jensen, Demand Media
    "You left the chili peppers and onions out, right?"

    "You left the chili peppers and onions out, right?"

    Don't count on Bootsie clearing his schedule for the night you're planning a fiesta complete with chile rellenos and jalapeno salsa. While he might enjoy a bit of plain shredded beef and some cheese, the rest of the spicy fare isn't on the list of your cat's favorite foods.

    Your Sense of Taste Is Better Than Bootsie's

    Your cat will tell you he is more advanced than you in every way, but he can't legitimately claim that about his sense of taste. Bootsie has fewer than 500 taste buds on his little pink tongue; you have close to 9,000 of them. True, his tongue can sand the finish off the dining room table, but yours can be used to identify and enjoy more complex tastes than his. While your cat knows the difference between salty and bitter or sour foods, spicy tastes don't register with him.

    Prefers Warm Temps to Hot Taste

    The smell may bring your cat running, but the texture and temperature of food are what entice him to eat it. Bootsie's instincts are to eat warm meat, like a freshly caught bird or mouse, instead of something like a stuffed pepper that gets its heat from spices.

    Will Recognize Spicy Hot

    Bootsie may not appreciate mild spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, but he will have no problem recognizing the spice from hot peppers like jalapenos and chili peppers. That's because the "heat" doesn't come from the taste of the pepper but from a reaction to the capsaicin they contain. The capsaicin irritates pain sensors in your cat's mouth just as it does in yours. It's a sensation Bootsie won't be pleased with and it's the reason why you shouldn't feed him spicy peppers or hot sauce.

    It's All for the Best

    Your cat's taste buds are geared toward recognizing basic flavor sensations, and that serves him well. He's naturally engineered to eat what his body needs, like protein and fats, neither of which need to come in a spicy package to benefit him. It's best if you don't let Bootsie indulge in food with a lot of spices, as it could cause an upset tummy or, if the flavoring comes from onions or garlic, could even interfere with his health. Foods from the onion family are dangerous for most household pets.

    About the Author

    Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.

    Photo Credits

    • Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images