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Cats and their digestion: how does it work?


Digestion is always a complex issue. But how does this process actually work in the cat? In vertebrates like cats, several organs "work" together so that they can be digested. "It was sooo delicious". But how does digestion work from now on? - Shutterstock / mik ulyannikov

Have you ever wondered how digestion works with our sweet velvet paws? Unlike dogs, cats are really pure carnivores. Your entire digestive tract is therefore prepared for the digestion of a prey animal.

Digestive organs of the cat

On the one hand, the cat has the necessary tools in its mouth to tear its prey and on the other hand the necessary digestive organs:

  • ● The mouth has lips, cat teeth, tongue, throat and salivary glands.
  • ● The esophagus connects the mouth to the stomach and extends over the chest area of ​​the cat.
  • ● The stomach is located on the left in the abdomen behind the liver. It may surprise you that the cat's stomach is only about two centimeters in diameter - but it is still somewhat stretchy.
  • ● The gallbladder is an important part of the liver.
  • ● The pancreaslies directly on the duodenum, which connects below the stomach and represents the first part of the small intestine.
  • ● The intestinal tract is located in the abdominal cavity, begins at the exit of the stomach and ends at the anus. It consists of a small and large intestine. The parts of the small intestine are the duodenum, the empty intestine and the bowel. The large intestine includes the appendix (which is somewhat stunted in carnivores), the colon and the rectum.

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The digestive process in cats

Important organs play a major role in the cat's digestive process. These always have their own function. Digestion takes place in three phases, in which food is taken in, transported, minced, and nutrients are extracted and distributed until "disposal" occurs:

head phase:

Food is first thoroughly examined and sniffed and then transported into the cat's mouth using the lips and teeth. Here, the food is crushed with the help of teeth and tongue and salivated using the salivary glands, which makes the food lubricious. This way the chunk of food can get into the cat's stomach better through the throat and esophagus. The so-called peristalsis also supports the contraction of the corresponding muscles.

gastric phase:

The food is now broken down in the stomach. It takes up to eight hours depending on the food components. The gastric juice necessary for the dissolution of the food parts is supplied by the glands of the stomach wall, it contains gastric acid and digestive enzymes. Anyone who is wondering why the stomach does not digest itself: It produces mucilages that wet the gastric mucosa and thus protect it from the decomposing stomach acid and the enzymes. Above a certain pressure, which arises from the amount of food in the stomach, the stomach outlet opens and the food pulp moves into the first section of the small intestine - the duodenum.

Intestinal phase:

Bile is added to the food porridge in the duodenum. This happens via the bile duct, which leads from the gallbladder directly to the duodenum. Bile neutralizes the decomposing stomach acid and digests fats. Via the pancreatic duct, a channel leading from the pancreas to the duodenum, the secretion of the pancreas now also reaches the food porridge. Like bile, it is responsible for neutralizing the acid, but also contains enzymes to digest fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Enzymes are absolutely essential for digestion, because without them, the nutrients would not be small enough to penetrate the blood through the intestinal mucosa - simply absorbing vital nutrients would simply not be possible.

In the other parts of the small intestine (empty and bowel), the nutrients are absorbed through protrusions on the intestinal wall. The protuberances are villi, which in turn have mini villi. Without this intelligent structure of the intestinal wall, its total area for absorbing the nutrients would not be large enough to absorb enough vital substances. The small intestine is the most important organ due to its diverse functions in terms of digestion, although food only stays in this area for one to two hours. From here, the nutrients reach the liver, which is responsible for the metabolism, among other things.

Now it continues into the large intestine, in which the remaining food remains for up to 24 hours. More nutrients are absorbed here, albeit less than in the small intestine. In the large intestine, water is extracted from the food porridge that contains the remaining non-digestible or usable parts of the food. This thicken the porridge and give it the right consistency for "disposal". These waste substances are retained in the rectum until the faeces are finally excreted through the anus. The entire digestive process in cats takes up to 36 hours.

The digestive tract of the cat: unlike humans

There is a difference in our mouth: people have enzymes in their saliva, so that the digestion or decomposition of food begins in the mouth. In cats, this process only starts in the stomach because cats have no decomposing enzymes in their saliva.

Another difference is the fact that cats do not eat vegetarian - on the contrary: they are pure carnivores! In the case of so-called carnivores, the small intestine is very short in contrast to omnivores or herbivores. It is not suitable for plant-based food because it takes more time for the digestive process. The time remaining in the small intestine would simply be too short to process plant-based food.