Discussing Food Mouthfeel and Selective Felines with Margaret Yim
Have you ever brought home a can of cat food and watched your cat refuse to eat it after a single bite? You may wonder if the smell or taste is to blame, but many cats also have distinct food texture preferences. So even if you’ve chosen a palatable formula in a favorite protein, it still might not tempt a cat who doesn’t like the texture of pate.
To understand why texture can be so important to cats, we turned to Margaret Yim. Margaret has been with Mud Bay for three and a half years, and while she started off as a store staff member, now she’s a Visual Merchandising Manager on our Store Development team. We wanted to talk to Margaret about cat preferences, not only because she’s a cat lover, but because she was also part of a new initiative to give cat owners more information about our wet foods.
MB: While many cat owners choose food based on the type of protein, Mud Bay suggests that you also consider the texture of your cat’s wet food. Can you explain why food texture can be important to cats?
MY: When thinking about a cat’s preference for food textures—or to them, mouthfeel—you want to think about two key ideas. Just like you or I, what a cat finds tasty is influenced by a lot of different factors other than taste. However, cats have fewer taste buds than humans or dogs. So other factors, like temperature, smell or mouthfeel, become much more proportionally relevant to them when they’re trying to discern what they like and don’t like.
In addition to different physiology, cats are also heavily influenced by the foods they eat as kittens. When cats are kittens, they’re learning whether different foods are good or bad for them. Often, they’re taught by their moms, or they learn from exposure to different things. So, cats build up these food preferences or aversions. They remember from kittenhood some things that they deem as not good, which, in their minds, may also mean that it might be potentially dangerous. Even factors like the location of food within the household can impact whether a cat will eat it.
Pet cats have this reputation of being finicky, but their distinct food preferences are linked to the combination of proportionately fewer taste buds and this priming period in their early lives. They remember when they were kittens they ate a similar food and didn’t like it. And the reason they don’t like a food may not be tied to taste at all.
MB: How do you visually distinguish between the different textures when you open the can, and how many textures are there?
MY: There are so many different textures of cat food, it would be hard to compare them accurately (unless you chewed them yourself). But Mud Bay has grouped them into three broad categories. They are pate, cuts and morsels.
Pate is what you might call meatloaf in a can. It’s ground up. It comes in a variety of densities, which can depend on the coarseness of the grind. Generally, there is a uniform texture throughout the entire can of food.
I think of cuts as shredded meat. You can still see the grain of the muscle or the flakes of fish. When you open a can of chicken cuts cat food, it looks like shredded chicken that you might find at the rotisserie counter. And it’s normally in a type of gravy.
Morsels are created from food that’s been cooked, processed and then cut. I like to compare morsels to gyro meat. If you’ve ever seen people slicing meat for gyros, you’ll see that there’s a long skewer of seasoned, pre-formed meat, and the person making the gyro just slowly slices off bits from the larger piece. So, when you open that can, you’ll see the diced or cubed meat in a gravy.
MB: Mud Bay just added some new labeling to our shelves to identify different wet food textures. For people not familiar with the new system, can you explain how it works?
MY: We know that textures are important to cats, so we added icons to the shelves to make it easy to choose foods based on texture or mouthfeel. There’s a little square icon on the shelves, and the bottom has a color-coded system that tells you whether the food is a pate, cut or morsel. Pate is light blue, cuts are in a salmon color, and morsels are a light green. There’s also the word pate, cuts or morsels on the lower part of the icon.
So now there is an easy way for you to walk down the aisle and find all the different cans in the textures you know your cat might like. If you have a cat that likes pate, you can go down any canned cat food aisle in our stores and instantly know which foods are pate.
We also know that proteins are important, especially for animals that have food sensitivities. So, on the top of the icon, Mud Bay added a line that tells you the primary protein in that can. If your cat has food sensitivities, it’s important to know that we use the first protein listed on the label as the primary protein. Sometimes, a wet food might contain several different proteins. Cat owners who want to avoid a certain protein should still read the can’s label.
But if you know that your cat likes pate, but really prefers beef, you can go down the aisle and easily identify only the beef pate wet food. That way, you’ll be able to really hone into what brands and foods might best fit the preferences of your cat.
Margaret Yim loves helping Mud Bay stores operate at and look their best as a Visual Merchandising Manager. If you see her at one of our stores (she’s the one with the tape measure and level), don’t be shy – say hi! She’d be thrilled to chat about Mud Bay, cats, food, and the great outdoors.