​What makes a cat's digestive system healthy?

Adult Siamese standing indoors eating from a yellow bowl.
Every part of your cat's digestive system helps absorb nutrients essential for its overall health and well-being - so what makes their system healthy, and how can you help?

Your cat’s digestive system plays a crucial role in supporting the health of their entire body. What supports the health of the digestive tract? 

How your cat’s digestive system works

Your cat’s digestive system is responsible for digesting food and absorbing the nutrients the body needs. The gastrointestinal tract is home to microflora, also known as ‘beneficial’ bacteria, which contribute to digestive health by promoting overall health when balanced and supporting the processing of food and nutrients. The digestive system also includes a dense population of immune system cells, meaning your cat’s gastrointestinal tract is one of the first places the immune system encounters potential pathogens or other things that may require an immune response.

However, a cat’s digestive system can be sensitive. The result is your cat can be sensitive to sudden changes in their diet, and any variation has the potential to cause stomach upset. They also tend to eat more frequently, but smaller meals, than a human; a cat will visit its food bowl between multiple times a day, eating a small amount at a time which is then processed by their digestive system.

Adult cat lying down on an examination table being checked over by a vet.

The impact of diet on your cat’s digestive system

A healthy digestive system in your cat is one which effectively absorbs all the nutrients your cat needs to maintain its health. Their diet, including the digestibility of the diet and its nutrient composition, therefore directly contributes to the health of the digestive system and of their whole body.

Unlike other mammals, cats are unable to synthesise certain nutrients in their body which are needed for effective functioning. This includes taurine – found in protein – certain fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin A. Your cat’s diet must include these essential components to support their overall well-being and health.

Cats have a high protein requirement – greater than a dog’s and a human – which is used to regenerate cells in their body, including their claws, antibodies and coat). This protein contains 11 essential amino acids, such as taurine, that a cat needs to function effectively; without taurine, they can suffer degeneration of their retina and heart problems.

Fat is an energy-dense part of your cat’s diet which can contribute to overall health and the health of their digestive system. For example, your cat needs specific fatty acids to replenish their skin cells and maintain its effective barrier. However, fat in their diet needs to be carefully balanced – too much fat can lead to obesity and other problems, including digestive sensitivities in some cats.

One of the key components in your cat’s diet which helps support gut health is fibre, both insoluble and soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre encourages regular movement of the gut and increases their stool bulk; soluble fibre acts like a ‘gelling’ agent which can slow down movement in the stomach and small intestine. A nutritionally-complete manufactured food will have the right balance of these fibres to maintain gastrointestinal health.

Other important elements of your cat’s diet in making sure their digestive system is healthy and able to absorb the nutrients its body needs are prebiotics. These encourage the development of ‘beneficial’ gut bacteria which contribute to your cat’s digestive health. Prebiotics include nutrients which positively affect the existing microflora in your cat’s gastrointestinal tract.

Your cat’s digestive tract is a sensitive and intricate system which needs the right care to stay healthy and effective. If you’re not sure on the best way to support your cat’s digestive well-being, speak to your vet.

  • Digestive Health
Related Articles
Adult cat standing in a vets office eating from a silver bowl.

​Feeding your cat after surgery to support recovery

Your cat's diet is one of the key ways you can give them a good start on the road to recovery. Find out here exactly how and what to feed your cat after surgery to support their health.

Adult cat sitting down outside in a garden next to a silver bowl.

Common cat digestive problems

From inflammation to parasites, learn about the most common digestive problems your cat might suffer from, and what symptoms to look out for.

Adult cat lying down indoors on a white blanket.

​The symptoms of digestive problems in your cat

Knowing what signs to look for in your cat that indicate a digestive problem can help make sure they get the right treatment as quickly as possible - learn more about the common symptoms here.

Find a vet

If you have any concerns about your cat’s health, consult a vet for professional advice.

Search near me
Maine Coon adult standing in black and white on a white background