Sunday, July 24, 2005

Genetics Leave Felines Without Sweet Tooth

"Cats are notoriously finicky eaters, as millions of pet owners can attest. Now, there's a scientific theory explaining, at least in part, why cats have such snobby eating habits: genetics.

Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and their collaborators said Sunday they found a dysfunctional feline gene that probably prevents cats from tasting sweets, a sensation nearly every other mammal on the planet experiences to varying degrees.

Researchers took saliva and blood samples from six cats, including a tiger and a cheetah and found each had a useless gene that other mammals use to create a "sweet receptor" on their tongues. The gene in question does not produce one of the two vital proteins needed to form the receptors.

"Because cats can't taste sweets, they're cranky," joked Joseph Brand, Monell's associate director and an author of the paper being published Sunday in the inaugural issue of the Public Library of Science's journal Genetics."

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