How Long Does It Take a Cat to Digest Food in Normal Routine?

how long does it take a cat to digest food

For humans, it takes 6 to 8 hours for the food to get digested. However, for the feline family, the digestion process is different. Digestion is an important process in any living being that helps turn the tasty food into useful energy for the body while releasing unwanted residue as poop.

So, while your cat’s poop might seem like a nightmare to clean up, it talks a lot about your pet’s health, here the real question is how long does it take a cat to digest food?

So, it is important to keep this in mind. But first, let us get into the digestive aspect of the feline species.

One of the necessary is the best cat food bowl to feed your cat either wet or dry food. Having a good quality and suitable bowl makes the eating experience more smooth for cats.

How do cats digest food?

The journey of food in a cat’s digestive system is similar to ours. First, the food is grounded up in the mouth with the help of the teeth and then is mixed with the saliva for added lubrication.

Next, the chewed down food is pushed down through the esophagus with the help of the tongue.

When the food goes down through the esophagus, it is crushed further with the help of the walls up until it reaches the stomach. Most of us believe that stomach acids help break down food.

However, it doesn’t do that. Rather, it kills the harmful bacteria population in the food. Both felines and Homo sapiens have a stomach acid pH that ranges between 1 and 3.

Once the harmful bacteria are killed, the food is pushed towards the cat’s small intestine for further digestion. The food is broken down into essential enzymes while extracting the necessary nutrients required by the body to thrive.

These nutrients are passed onto the blood and then into the cat’s cells.

digestive system of a cat

Anything that the cat’s small intestine cannot break down is considered a waste product and moved to the feline’s large intestine. Here, the waste product is turned into poop to be excreted by the body.

In general, a cat’s digestion process takes anywhere between 10 to 24 hours which is way longer than a human.

Before cats became domesticated, there was no guarantee when the animal would get its next meal. So, it was important for the metabolism to be slow to ensure the cats feel full for longer.

Another difference between humans and cats is that the latter features tiny spines in their tongues to break up the food with ease.

It is why the tongue feels like sandpaper if they lick your face.

Can A Cat’s Digestion Become Slower?

Your cat’s digestion should take more than a day, depending on the daily activities your pet indulges in. For example, if your cat is an active fellow, the digestion would be faster. However, a cat that leads a sedentary life will experience slow digestion.

But, the maximum time it should take your cat to digest something is 24 hours and not more.

Any delay in the digestion process could point out to a health issue or even blockage in the digestive tract. These blockages can happen due to plastic, stones, sticks, or any object that doesn’t come under the food category.

Do not assume that the pet has ingested a rock or something that has led to the blockage. It could be the food that contains such items leading to blockages.

How To Detect Food Blockages In Your Cat’s Digestive System?

Checking out for any blockages in your cat’s digestive system is important as early as possible. Doing this helps you get help for your ailing cat without letting the condition worsen. The direct result of blockages in the digestive system is it takes longer than normal.

You can know there is a blockage when your cat takes up much longer to defecate.

Even when they poop, they are straining too hard and struggle to get it out. The poop could also come out too hard and dry.

Certain indirect consequences of this happening include:

  • The cats look sick given the poop build-up
  • They aren’t as energetic as their regular self
  • Declining appetite

If your pet is having issues digesting its food, you need to change the diet. Depending on the intensity of the problem, you can mix some water with your cat’s dry food to let it become soft and easier to digest.

Moreover, you can replace the cat’s dry food with canned/wet food until the issue is solved.

You can give them something like pumpkin soup or mashed pumpkin to help clear out the blockages in the digestive tract.

But, make sure you don’t overdo it. Then, if the cat still feels just as sick, you can consult a veterinarian to correct the problem.

Can Cats Digest Vegetables?

Interestingly, cats find it hard to digest plant products. So if you provide them vegan dietary items, the food will enter from the mouth and come out of the other end without imparting any nutrition to the cat.

Again, the feline family lacks the necessary enzymes required to extract nutrients present in the plant matter.

It is the same reason human beings cannot eat grass and digest it but other herbivorous animals. So while you can find some vegan cat diet options in the market, it is debatable whether they provide any nutrition to your feline friend.

Dry vs Wet Food: How Do Cats Digest It?

In general terms, wet food tends to get digested easily as compared to dry food. It happens due to the soft nature of wet/canned food which breaks down with ease. Therefore it goes down through the digestive system smoothly.

Even if wet food is easy to digest, it doesn’t necessarily make it better for your cat’s digestive system. Canned/wet food can harbor nasty bacteria capable of making the cat sick.

However, a lot of wet food might cause your cat to defecate more with a watery consistency.

So, pet parents generally prefer dry food to help with the digestion process. However, a balanced mix of the two can be great for your pet.

How To Know If Your Cat Will Throw Up The Food?

The minimum required time for a cat to digest its food is 12 hours. So, if your pet doesn’t bode well with a diet change and is about to vomit, it will happen sooner than later.

On the other hand, cats generally throw up undigested food.

If your cat doesn’t throw up even after 12 hours of having their food, you can be relaxed as it isn’t going to happen anyway. However, if your cat digests the food but not properly, it might appear in their stools with abnormal consistency.

For example, the poop might be runny or too hard to come out with ease.

In most cases, cats tend to vomit for clearing out the hairballs that accidentally enter their stomachs.

It happens due to the regular grooming they do for themselves with the help of their tongue. So, check whether there are any hairballs present in the vomit. If there is, you can stop worrying.

Here are other reasons for cats to throw up:

  • Diet change
  • Gastritis
  • Eating way fast
  • Motility disorders
  • Parasites
  • Esophageal irritation
  • Constipation
  • Obstruction in your cat’s intestinal tract

Can Human Foods Cause Digestive Issues Among Cats?

A cat’s digestive system, as mentioned earlier, is different from the ones in humans. However, not all human food bodes well with the feline species. Most of all, dairy products can be the worst for cats.

Although certain food options such as meat or a few veggies could be healthy for your cat, they might not deliver the exact nutritional requirements.

If you plan on sharing a food item with your pet, the key is to avoid dairy. Although it might seem that cats would love milk, it is hard to digest.

While a couple of licks won’t be bad for their digestion, too much can cause issues such as diarrhea.

Common Digestive Issues In Cats

Digestive disorders tend to be common among cats, especially because they are picky eaters.

These issues result from several allergies due to the absence of important enzymes that aid the digestion process.

Digestive IssuesCause
Acute GastroenteritisIt happens due to digestive tract inflammation stemming from the consumption of spoiled food or poisonous plants.
ColitisColitis occurs due to large intestine inflammation resulting in sticky poops. It occurs mostly in young cats, and allergies, tumors, or food changes could cause the problem.
ConstipationLack of fiber, dehydration, zero physical activities, or hair ingestion could lead to constipation among the felines.
DiarrheaInternal parasites or infections can induce diarrhea among cats. It could also happen due to consumption of spoiled food or sudden diet change.
PancreatitisInflammation of the pancreas can cause pancreatitis. It might happen due to any infection, underlying health issue, or even low blood pressure.

As a caring pet parent, you need to know how much-wet cat food is for cats is necessary for a day.

To offer something premium, learn how to make your cat food and if you have a dog at home, then knowing why cat food is bad for dogs help you to keep your both pet healthy.


The digestion process and duration can change depending on the cat’s age, food brand, meal type, amount of food, health status, or eating habits.

To ensure that your cat has better digestion and a healthier body, make sure you feed them a high protein and fiber diet.

Avoid dairy and grain as much as possible and keep an eye on any behavioral changes to track their health. It will also help you to keep your cat’s digestion system on track so she can enjoy better health.