Keeping your cat's digestive system healthy
How is cat digestion different from humans?
A common question is how long does it take for cats to digest food? For cats, it takes just 12-24 hours for food to move through their intestines, compared to human digestion which can take up to five days.2
A closer look at a cat’s digestive system
As with dogs and humans, each element of your cat's digestive system has a role to play in breaking down food and absorbing the nutrients it needs. It also holds beneficial bacteria, called microbiota, to keep the gut healthy and lots of immune system cells to protect their overall health.
A cat’s digestive system can be particularly sensitive and may be easily upset by sudden changes to its diet, for example. It’s also designed for cats to eat more frequently and to eat smaller meals. Many cats visit their food bowl several times a day and eat only a small amount each time. To avoid your pet gaining weight, it's therefore important to be aware of daily rations and divide this over each small meal.
Important nutrients for your cat’s digestion
Every element of your cat’s food can play a role in supporting their delicate digestive system and, in turn, their overall health. To get advice on the best diet for your cat and their specific needs or vulnerabilities, it’s always best to ask your vet. But let’s look at the key nutrients and factors that are important for every cat’s digestive system.
Understanding cat digestive issues
As a cat’s digestive system is so delicately balanced, it can be particularly prone to problems. Elements that can give your cat an upset stomach include changes to their diet, stress/anxiety and underlying health issues.
Common digestive problems in cats
Parasites can settle in your cat’s intestines and cause severe diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and weight loss, not to mention abdominal discomfort. Talk to your vet if you think your cat has parasites, as they can prescribe medication to help clear them.
For cats that live indoors, hairballs can be a common problem as grooming is one of their main activities. As cats groom, they swallow loose hairs that usually pass out in their stools. If there’s an excess of hair, hairs can accumulate into hairballs which can make it difficult for them to pass through the digective tract. You can help by brushing your cat regularly to remove excess hair and ensuring their diet has the right mix of fibre to disperse the hair they’ve swallowed.
If one or more parts of your cat’s digestive system (including the stomach, small and large intestine,...) is affected by a disease, it could cause your cat discomfort and problems like chronic vomiting and diarrhoea, weight loss and a change in appetite. They may even have an increase in appetite as they attempt to get the nutrients they need.
Signs to look out for
If you think your cat has digestive issues, there are several things to watch for, including:
Ask your vet
If you think your cat has an upset stomach or digestive problem, it’s important to contact your vet. They can do important checks to identify the potential causes of the issues. And can also advise you on any changes you need to make, including to your cat’s diet, to help address the problems and discomfort they’re having.
Choosing the right foods for your cat's healthy digestive system
Whether you think your cat has digestive problem or not, it’s always worth asking your vet for advice on the best food for them. There are a wide range of highly digestible cat foods available to suit the specific needs of each pet – from indoor cats with lower energy requirements to kittens that are particularly vulnerable.
1 The Cat Encyclopaedia, 2017, Royal Canin, p254
2 Everything you need to know about the role played by Nutrients for the health of Cats & Dogs, Pr Dominique Grandjean, 2006, Royal Canin SAS
Royal Canin’s approach to nutrition
At Royal Canin, we focus our efforts on understanding the unique needs of cats and dogs. Everything we do is designed to create precise nutritional formulas tailored to support their continued health and wellbeing. Find out more about our scientific approach to pet nutrition.Our nutritional approach
Browse our product ranges
Each Royal Canin formula has been created to deliver nutrition tailored to your pet’s needs depending on their breed, age, lifestyle or vulnerabilities. Browse the full range products and discover how we can help your pet enjoy the best health possible.Explore the ranges