How Long Does It Take a Cat To Digest Food

If you’re a cat parent, you know that our feline friends have unique needs when it comes to their diet and digestion. But have you ever wondered how long it takes for a cat to digest food? In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of feline digestion and provide insights into the best foods for your cat’s digestive system.

How long does it take a cat to digest food?

Unlike humans, whose digestion takes about 7 to 8 hours, cats have a much shorter digestive process. On average, it takes a cat around 10 to 20 hours for food to move through their entire digestive tract. This is because, as obligate carnivores, cats primarily rely on meat as their source of protein.

Cats have sharp teeth designed for slicing through meat, rather than chewing it thoroughly. As a result, they tend to swallow chunks of meat, which takes longer to pass through their system. Once in the stomach, the food is broken down by strong acid, which also breaks down any bones and destroys bacteria. The partially digested food then moves to the small intestines for further digestion and nutrient extraction.

It’s important to note that the digestion process might be shorter if your cat is ill and vomiting. In such cases, most of the food is thrown up undigested, and the usual digestion period does not apply.

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How long does food stay in your cat’s stomach?

A cat’s stomach structure is similar to that of a human. After food reaches the stomach, it moves to the small intestines within a few hours, and the stomach is emptied. About 8 hours later, the empty stomach sends signals to the cat’s brain, stimulating the hunger response.

Occasionally, a cat may experience an upset stomach after eating a large meal, or it may occur later while the food is still in the stomach.

What causes an upset stomach in cats?

Upset stomachs are a common complaint among cat parents, and they can interfere with the digestion process. An upset stomach in cats is characterized by pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. Several factors can cause an upset stomach, including food intolerances, food allergies, stress, parasites, and constipation.

How often should I feed my cat?

Establishing a meal schedule and feeding routine for your cat can help them adapt to changes in their environment. Cats are creatures of habit, and consistent feeding times can make them feel more secure. According to Hill’s Pet, there are three main methods of feeding cats:

Meal feeding:

This method involves following a specific schedule to feed your cat. Typically, this means two meals per day, one in the morning and one in the evening. Meal feeding allows you to monitor your cat’s food intake and detect any changes in appetite. It also helps prevent one cat from dominating others during meal times.

Free feeding:

With this method, food is always available for your cat to eat whenever it wants. However, free feeding can make it difficult to monitor your cat’s appetite and food intake. It can lead to overeating and health issues like obesity and diabetes, especially in multi-cat households.

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Combination feeding:

This method combines both meal and free feeding. You can serve wet food at specific times and offer dry kibbles as treats between meals. Combination feeding allows your cat to have several small meals throughout the day, benefiting from the nutrients in both wet and dry cat food. However, it’s essential to monitor your cat’s appetite and food intake to prevent overeating and weight gain.

The feeding method you choose should consider your cat’s age, health, and any specific dietary requirements. Consult your veterinarian for guidance on the amount and timing of meals that suit your cat’s needs.

Mistakes to avoid when feeding your cat

To ensure your cat’s digestive health, it’s important to avoid certain mistakes when it comes to their diet. These include:

  • Serving too much food, leading to overeating and obesity.
  • Feeding your cat only dry food, which lacks moisture and can contribute to dehydration and constipation.
  • Not providing enough fresh water, as cats need to stay hydrated for proper digestion.
  • Adding garlic to your cat’s food to treat tapeworms, as it can be toxic to cats.
  • Attempting to feed your cat with a vegetarian or vegan diet, as cats require essential nutrients found in animal products.
  • Offering an unbalanced diet lacking essential nutrients for your cat’s overall health.

Digestive disorders in cats

Digestive disorders in cats can disrupt the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. These disorders include conditions like colitis, gastroenteritis, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), irritable bowel syndrome, and pancreatitis. Symptoms of digestive disorders can include vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, weight loss, and abdominal pain.

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If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately. Your veterinarian can diagnose the specific disorder and recommend appropriate treatment and dietary changes.


Understanding how long it takes for a cat to digest food and how to support their digestive health is essential for responsible cat parenting. Cats have unique dietary needs, and their digestion process differs from humans. By providing a balanced diet, establishing a feeding routine, and being attentive to any digestive issues, you can help ensure your cat’s overall well-being.

Remember, always consult with a veterinarian for specific advice tailored to your cat’s unique needs and circumstances. For more information and valuable resources for cat owners, visit 1mquotes.

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