Understanding your cat's gastrointestinal and digestive health

Your cat's gastrointestinal health helps to support the rest of their body by properly digesting food, making sure they extract the nutrients needed to support their body and overall health. 

Russian Blue cat in black and white

A gastrointestinal or digestive upset can disrupt the function of the stomach and intestines and can be linked to a number of illnesses, including pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). As a result of gastrointestinal and digestive problems, cats may not be able to absorb the nutrients they usually would. As a result, this can have a negative impact on your cat's health which may lead to other problems.

If you suspect your cat could be suffering from a gastrointestinal issue it's important to speak to a veterinarian as soon as possible so they can diagnose it and discuss management options.

What are the most common gastrointestinal disorders in cats?


Constipation can be by caused by a wide variety of conditions, from a mobility problem to a physical blockage. Contact your veterinarian if your cat has difficulty or is unable to pass stool. Be aware, if your cat is straining in the litter box, this could also indicate a urinary tract obstruction and not constipation. A urinary tract obstruction is another urgent condition that requires immediate medical attention.



Cats lick themselves to stay clean but licking can lead to the ingestion of hairballs. These are usually regurgitated but occasionally cause constipation or even a blockage. If your cat is regularly producing hairballs, speak to your veterinarian about how to best manage this condition.



Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a common chronic digestive disorder in cats.
Inflammation in the intestines can lead to a range of signs, including diarrhea and vomiting.
Contact your veterinarian if your cat is showing any of these signs.



This inflammatory disease can range in severity and is difficult to diagnose in cats. Typical signs of pancreatitis in cats include lethargy, weight loss, and a disinterest in food.


Acute gastroenteritis

If your cat is suddenly vomiting or has diarrhea, they may have acute gastroenteritis: inflammation of the stomach and intestine caused by bacteria, parasites, medication, or eating something disagreeable.



Diarrhea is a sign of many different conditions, both mild and severe, and is most commonly caused by intestinal dysfunction. If your cat has persistent diarrhea or shows other signs, contact your veterinarian.

What is the difference between acute and chronic digestive issues?

Gastrointestinal disorders in cats can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute conditions appear suddenly and deteriorate rapidly, while chronic conditions develop over time and may worsen gradually.

The medical treatment your cat receives will depend upon whether their condition is acute or chronic. In some cases, their long-term nutritional needs may also be affected.

Russian Blue cat in black and white eating from red bowl

The importance of tailored nutrition

Treatment for a gastrointestinal illness will depend upon your cat's circumstances and medical conditions but will frequently involve a change to their diet.

Here are some examples of when your veterinarian may recommend a dietary change.
Pancreatitis illustration


 Unlike dogs, cats with pancreatitis seem to tolerate fat, and so a highly digestible diet with a moderate fat content is often used. If their pancreatitis is associated with IBD, then a hydrolyzed protein diet may be recommended.

Gastroenteritis illustration


A cat with acute gastroenteritis will often be offered small amounts of food. This should be energy-dense and highly digestible. If the gastroenteritis is chronic, dietary strategies may be different. If a food sensitivity is the cause, the cat may require a hydrolyzed protein diet.

Colitis illustration


Colitis in cats is caused by inflammation of the large intestine. A highly digestible diet with high-quality sources of protein can be beneficial. In chronic cases, a hydrolyzed protein or high fibre diet may be needed.

Illustration of intestines


A high fibre diet may benefit cats with constipation. A blend of soluble and insoluble fibres helps intestinal contents transition through the gastrointestinal tract.

 Learn about cat constipation.

Illustration of a cat using a litter tray


Cats who have been suffering from diarrhea may benefit from a high energy diet to help provide nutrients in a small volume. Some highly digestible diets also contain prebiotics to support the microbiome.

Spot the signs of cat diarrhea.

Illustration of inflamed intestines


A hydrolyzed protein diet can help support cats with IBD.




If your cat is suffering from an acute gastrointestinal health issue, the change in diet may be temporary, but if it’s chronic they may need to stay on the new diet for the rest of their lives. 

If you do decide to change your cat's diet once their signs have subsided, you should make the change slowly and continue to support their health through a premium formula - like Digestive Care or Feline Breed Nutrition diet.

Packshot of Royal Canin Gastrointestinal cat diets

The Royal Canin Gastrointestinal cat food range

Available exclusively through your veterinarian, ask them about the Royal Canin gastrointestinal product benefits for your cat.

1. Rich in nutrients and easily digestible, Royal Canin’s gastrointestinal products are specially designed for cats experiencing digestive issues.

2. Each product has been precisely balanced for good digestion, while the blend of balanced fibres and prebiotics support your cat’s digestive health. 

3. A choice of diets lets you tailor meals to suit their needs – including dry and wet food options, kitten formulas, and moderate-calorie alternatives.

4. The highly palatable formulas encourage cats to eat even when they’re experiencing a decreased appetite from a gastrointestinal upset. This can help a cat maintain or recover weight during an illness. 

Gastrointestinal diets

Learn more about supporting gastrointestinal health with Royal Canin diets

Ask your veterinarian if any of these products are suitable for your cat.

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Packshot of Royal Canin Digestive cat diets

Digestive Care diets

Complete and balanced nutrition for adult cats with a sensitive stomach. Tailored to help cats maintain an ideal weight, and with highly digestible protein in a dry and wet formula.

Digestive Care diets
Packshot of Royal Canin Gastrointestinal cat diets

Gastrointestinal diets

Gastrointestinal diets are available exclusively through veterinarians with dry and wet food options for kittens and adult cats with long or short term digestive signs. These diets contain highly digestible proteins and prebiotics. Gastrointestinal diets promote digestive health and optimal stool quality.

Gastrointestinal diets