WHY DO CATS LIKE EATING EARWAX ??
I did a study on earwax as part of my degree in
neuroscience (Bsc.Neurosci. Nottingham 1997) , and know a fair bit about Sensory
Reception in both humans and cats. . .
The principal constituent components of earwax
are complex sebaceous fluids and sloughed off dead skin cells. The
sebaceous fluids are composed mostly of triglyceride fatty acids, waxes and
A cat is not a spohisticated creature when it comes to its
sense of taste. Where a human has close to 10,000 tastebuds, a cat has
less than 500. However, they make up for this by having a higher
concentration of olfactory receptors. (Estimates vary between breeds, but they
have approximately 50 times the number of our 5 million or so odour sensitive
cells.) Like humans though, they only respond to the four basic taste
types of sour, bitter, salt and sweet - their response to sweet being the
weakest. Most of our experience of flavour is actually due to smell -
it is our sense of smell which determines why different food 'tastes'
different. It is reasonable to assume that cats use a similar blend
of smell and taste in determining the palatability of food.
Consider the following. Cats rarely reject a
proffered piece of food on the basis of it's taste. They use smell as
the discriminator to decide if something is likely to be good tucker or
not. Using their sense of smell, the cats subconsciously realise that
earwax has a nutritional value - specific olfactory receptors will be
triggered by the scent of the fatty acids, the cholesterol, and also the
dead skin cells (mostly protein). Cats are specifically attuned to
the scent of animal proteins, hence their preference for meat - also the reason
why cats hungrily devour earwax (and also love freshly picked scabs).
The ratio of smell receptors to taste receptors is virtually reversed in cats
and humans - as such if something smells good but tastes like shit then we won't
eat it, but if a cat likes the smell of it, it has to taste
fucking awful before it won't eat it. A cat will eat
small lumps of plasticine if they're covered in gravy. Try it -
it's non-toxic and you can pepper your cat turds with interesting
The upshot is that humans, with their increased
sensitivity to taste, generally reject eating earwax because of its sour,
bitter taste (oh come on, everyone has a dim childhood memory of what earxax
tastes like, don't they?). For cats, however, the sour and bitter
flavour component of the earwax is barely noticeable in comparison to its
wholesome nutritious odour. QED.
Disclaimer: The author does not endorse the feeding
of plasticine to cats on a regular basis. Only when they've shit on your
bed, coughed up a furball on your brand new novation nova II, or scratched the
fuck out of your 200 quid carhartt coat. In fact fuck it, now I think
about it, feed the little cunts whatever you want.
>>>> FROM STUART MOFFAT
b3ta i.d. muffrat