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Genetic Mutation Identified as the Underlying Cause of Finland's Salty Liquorice Cat Phenomenon

Finland has long been renowned for its peculiar feline phenomenon – cats with an inexplicable affinity for salty liquorice. This peculiar behavior has puzzled scientists and cat enthusiasts alike for decades. However, recent groundbreaking research has finally uncovered the genetic mutation responsible for this unusual predilection.

The Study

A team of researchers led by Professor Anna-Liisa Haukka of the University of Helsinki embarked on a comprehensive study to unravel the genetic basis of the salty liquorice-loving cats. They collected DNA samples from over 500 cats across Finland, including both those with a fondness for the salty treat and those without.

Through meticulous analysis of the collected DNA, the researchers identified a specific mutation in the TAS1R3 gene, which is responsible for encoding a receptor that detects bitter tastes. In humans and most animals, this receptor is designed to elicit an aversive response to bitter substances, including liquorice.

The Mutation

The mutation identified in the Finnish cats results in a non-functional TAS1R3 receptor, effectively abolishing their ability to detect the bitterness of liquorice. Instead, these cats perceive the salty flavor of liquorice as pleasurable, leading to their unusual craving for the salty treat.

This mutation has been named the "liquorice allele" and is found almost exclusively in Finnish cats. Its origin remains unclear, but researchers speculate that it may have arisen as a result of natural selection. In the harsh Finnish winters, liquorice may have served as a valuable source of salt, leading to the survival of cats with the mutation.

Implications for Feline Health

While the salty liquorice craving is an amusing and harmless feline quirk, the underlying genetic mutation can have implications for the health of Finnish cats. Liquorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which can be toxic to cats in large amounts.

Cats with the "liquorice allele" are more likely to consume excessive amounts of liquorice, potentially leading to health issues such as potassium imbalances, muscle weakness, and even kidney failure. Therefore, cat owners in Finland should be aware of the potential risks and limit their pets' access to salty liquorice.

Future Research

While this study has provided a definitive answer to the genetic basis of Finland's salty liquorice cats, further research is needed to explore the evolutionary origins of the mutation and its potential impact on feline health.

Researchers are also interested in investigating whether similar mutations exist in other species, particularly those that exhibit unusual taste preferences. This research could lead to a better understanding of the genetic basis of taste perception and its role in animal behavior.


The identification of the "liquorice allele" in Finnish cats is a testament to the power of scientific research in uncovering the mysteries of nature. This discovery not only satisfies the curiosity of cat enthusiasts but also provides valuable insights into the genetics of taste perception and its potential impact on animal behavior. It is a testament to the enduring bond between humans and their feline companions.

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