We can deny it : cats also have their food preferences ! One thing to keep in mind however : in the feline species, it is not something innate. What we could call "nutritional education" can indeed be performed in kittens !
Kittens will acquire those food preferences very early in life. In fact, it even starts during the gestation ! The foetuses are indeed surrounded by the amniotic fluid, and they will start to assimilate some of the nutrients it contains. Their taste buds will become functional a few days before parturition. Therefore, what the mother eats during her gestation will definitely influence the kittens' food preferences even before they are born !
The role of the mother in the acquisition of the food preferences goes even well beyond that :
- when the kittens are separated from their mother and are presented a new type of food, they take in average 4.8 days to become interested and start eating this one ;
- when the mother is present and already eats this food, it will only take them 5 hours to adopt the same behaviour !
Kittens will replicate every little details of their mother's feeding behaviour. This is so precise, they will start eating their meal from the exact same area of the bowl their mother started eating ! This feeding behavior will persist during the first 4-5 months. Feeding the mother & the kittens with the same food will definitely make things easier !
Most of the feeding habits of the kittens will be determined between 6-8 weeks of age. During this period it is also important to expose them to different types of food. Kittens should therefore have had access to dry and canned food. If they have been deprived of a certain feeding experience, this will influence how they eat in the future.
Those first experiences will lead to the individual differences that are observed later in life !
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