Domestic cats apparently have multiple taste receptors for bitter substances. This surprised the researchers since cats are carnivores.
A team of U.S. scientists has discovered that domestic cats, surprisingly, are adept at tasting bitter flavors.
This sets a prevailing theory on its head. The theory of the evolution of taste, previously assumed that the ability to taste bitter flavors correlated with the ability to detect indigestible, or potentially toxic plants.
But cats do not eat plants, and still, they have twelve different taste receptors for bitter substances. This is almost as many as the giant pandas have, an animal that almost exclusively eats plants.
The researchers, therefore, concluded that the ability to taste bitter flavors must be useful even for carnivores in some way, perhaps to detect toxins present in the skin of reptiles and amphibians.
Reference: Lei et al: “Functional Analyses of Bitter Taste Receptors in Domestic Cats (Felis Catus),” Plos One, 2015. DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0139670