Yummy In My Tummy – The Cats Digestion

Cats are carnivores and their digestive system plays two roles: It breaks down food into nutrients that the cat’s body absorbs. But it also acts as protective wall against harmful bacteria and other thing that can cause diseases and bad things that your cat may eat.

Photo by Rafael Vinicius Leme Habermann.

Photo by Rafael Vinicius Leme Habermann.

As food enters their mouth a lot of saliva is secreted. It will lubricate, dissolve a chemically break down the food. As a cat takes food into his mouth, it chews it into small pieces. The tongue will help moving the food into the oral pharynx — a hallow structure at the back of its oral cavity. From there the food is swallowed, and moves down into the stomach.

Inside the stomach the food is mixed with potent acids and enzymes that are produced by the stomach lining. Feline gastric juices are strong enough to soften bone. This means that cats can swallow large chunks of prey like rodents or birds. Feathers, hair and bones that are not broken down in the stomach may end the body through the back.

IMG_1426When the stomach is done with the food it moves through the pylorus. The pylorus is a ring like muscle that constricts or relaxes as needed to control flow into the first section of the small intestine. This is also where most of the digestion takes place. The food is mixed with a bitter yellow liquid called bile that is coming from the liver, and with a fluid from the pancreas. Those fluids and liquids play a big role together with the enzymes. It will balance the harsh stomach acids and break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. This needs to happen so it can be absorbed through the intestinal lining and into the cat’s blood.

When the small intestine is done with its job, it’s time for the large intestine to do its job. This intestine will absorb extra nutrients and take out the remaining water from the food, because the large intestine works as a storage area for solid material that is left after the digestive process: Poop — and we all know how poop leaves the body.

This process normally takes about 20 hours in an adult cat.

13 Responses to “Yummy In My Tummy – The Cats Digestion”

  1. onespoiledcat

    Wow……when you break it down and understand the process and how it’s important for everything to work just right DURING the process, it’s easy to see how cats (and other animals) have upset tummies or other digestive issues once in a while. It’s complicated – like it is for people. Sam’s always had a “sensitive” stomach……as many cats do.

    Thanks Dianda!

    • Dianda

      Hiro doesn’t really have a sensitive stomach, but raw food always comes right out again. And Suki gets an allergic reaction from grains. :(

  2. Connie

    great post. one small aside, cats don’t actually ‘chew’ food. their teeth are designed to rip flesh from bone or to rip off chunks of food. “Chew’ is the closest thing to describe what they do in terms of what we do, but their teeth are more like knives and the action is more like what we would do if we were pulling a chunk of meat off of a larger piece with out the benefit of utensils.

  3. Kitties Blue

    Very interesting post, and we think that kitty’s tongue is probably the longest we have ever seen. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  4. Tom Duhamel

    The whole process is quite similar in all animals, it only differs in what can be digested, and thus what kind of acid is produced. Also, what kind of good bacteria we have (I’m kissing my cats in the hope of one day gaining their ability to digest raw meat).

    The really impressive part is that in cats, the process lasts for only about 20 hours, as stated by your very last sentence. In italic, I presume, because you too thought that one bit was impressive. In humans, the process last more like 48-72 hours. This difference is very important. 20 hours is too short for any bad bacteria to develop into an illness, so cats can safely eat raw meat that have been laying in the sun for several hours. If we ate that meat, we’d get sick because the bacteria would have enough time to develop inside our body.

    Sorry, I always need to add bits lol :)

    Oh, and thanks for not explaining the very last bit — how poop gets out of the body lol :P

      • Dianda

        Well, We barely BBQ anymore. Because our balcony is too small and my mom keeps saying it for years that we’re going to BBQ again one time. But that has been two years now. :P I’m not doubting my family’s BBQ abilities. But I hear it so often that people get sick from eating (raw) food at a bbq!

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