The Digestive System Of Cats

The digestive system is made up of different organs in the body – mouth, stomach, intestine, among others – that allow the animal to carry out digestion in order to obtain energy from food and perform its vital functions.
The Cats Digestive System

The body of cats is made up of different systems, like the digestive system, for example, which works together with the other organs of the other systems. Thus, the body can remain healthy and perform its vital functions.

What is the digestive system?

The digestive system is made up of all the organs in the body that are responsible for processing and breaking down food and liquids. Then, the body will use these substances as a source of energy, for growth or for tissue repair.

Substances that are not processed become waste. Since they cannot be used by the body, the waste is eliminated through bowel movements.

Components of the Cats Digestive System

The digestive system is composed of the following elements:

  • Mouth.
  • Pharynx (throat).
  • Esophagus.
  • Stomach.
  • Small intestine.
  • Large intestine.
  • Straight.
  • Anus.

The Cats Digestive System

The digestive system also includes the salivary glands, gallbladder, and pancreas. Its function is to produce enzymes and digestive juices that facilitate the absorption of nutrients and liquids.

Functioning of the digestive system

The main function of the digestive system is to break down the components of ingested food to obtain and assimilate its nutrients. The digestion process starts in the mouth, with the excretion of saliva.

In it, salivary enzymes are produced by four types of glands that dogs and cats have. The function of saliva is to moisten food to facilitate its passage. The alpha-amylase enzyme, which initiates the breakdown process, is not present in either dogs or cats.


Once the bolus is formed, it moves to the larynx, where pharyngeal contractions occur. They allow the cake to move.

The epiglottis blocks the trachea and prevents food from passing into the lungs, while the contraction movement continues into the esophagus.

If the first peristaltic movement fails to propel food and fluid into the stomach, a second movement occurs. In cats, the speed of swallowing liquids is one to two centimeters per second.

Therefore, when administering tablets orally without water, care must be taken. Otherwise the pills tend to stay in the esophagus and the cat may develop esophagitis.

O sistema digestivo dos gatos


The stomach is located on the left side of the body and is divided into five parts. Its main function is to secrete hydrochloric acid and pepsinogen which, together with enzymes, facilitate the digestion of food.

The most important digestive enzymes are pepsin and lipase. Pepsin acts when the pH is 2.0 and ‘cuts’ proteins into smaller units called peptides.

Pepsin digests meat proteins better than those of vegetable origin. For this reason, pepsin is more important in dogs than in cats, as dogs generally eat more meat.

In turn, gastric lipase is an enzyme responsible for breaking down long-chain fatty acids. Its function is less important than that of pancreatic lipase.

Cats eat less food than dogs, but more often throughout the day. Dogs, on the other hand, eat large amounts of food.

Small intestine and pancreas

The cat’s small intestine is 1.3 meters long and is divided into three regions: duodenum, jejunum and ileum. In it, most of the enzymatic digestion of food takes place, which, in cats, lasts between two and three hours.

The surface of the small intestine has different modifications that allow its absorption area to expand. An example is the luminal surface microvilli.

It has enzymes that allow the digestion of disaccharides, oligosaccharides and small peptides. Also, there are proteins that carry important substances such as calcium or iron.

The mucous layer of the intestine acts as a protective mantle against pathogens. However, it can become stunted because of the use of some medications or lack of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) or folates.

The pancreas secretes enzymes essential for the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. It usually secretes inactive precursors to these enzymes, such as trypsin, which are activated and act in the small intestine.

Large intestine

The large intestine is made up of the colon, cecum, and rectum; in an adult cat, it has a length of 0.4 meters. Its main function is the absorption of electrolytes and water.

Furthermore, it should be noted that it is responsible for the fermentation of unabsorbed nutrients. Therefore, transit through the large intestine is slower.

The last step of the digestive system is the elimination of all waste that cannot be used by the body.

Fun facts about the digestive system of cats

The microvilli enzymes are affected by different factors such as age, diet and different diseases. An example is the decrease in lactase.

cat drinking milk

Lactase is an enzyme that digests lactose, a disaccharide in milk. By decreasing this enzyme, adult individuals may not tolerate milk in the same way as puppies.

Another circumstance that causes intestinal disarray is a change in diet, as the enzymes take about two days to adapt to this change.

Therefore, it is possible that there is an increase in the amount of undigested carbohydrates. This can lead to enteritis and manifest as diarrhea in the animal.

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