Gut-related health problems are not a rare occasion among pets. You have probably found yourself with a vomiting cat out of the blue. Sometimes it is just a normal reaction to a heavy meal and other times it is a sign of a very serious complication. 

After you witness your poor cat throw up a few times, you may get concerned and head to the vet. After examination, you expect the vet to say, “Buttons has an infection. Here are some antibiotics. He should be well soon.”

But no, the vet instead says, “Buttons is not producing enough enzymes. His food is not getting fully digested in the gut. He is going to need to get started on enzyme supplements.”

What are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive Enzymes For Cats

Digestive enzymes are chemicals that facilitate the breakdown of food in the digestive system. Digestive enzymes are extremely crucial to the health of a pet. This is because without digestive enzymes, the body would not be able to use food, the source of all nourishment.

In the event that a cat is not getting adequate nourishment from food, one might think that giving dietary supplements is the next best thing. However, there are literally hundreds of nutrients.

There is no way one can supplement all of them in adequate amounts. Eventually, your cat will not get enough of some nutrients. So why not enhance the body’s ability to use the food it is already receiving? This is where digestive enzymes for cats come in. 

What is the Role of Digestive Enzymes?

When food is eaten, it is intended to provide nutrients for the body. However, the body cannot use those nutrients the way they exist naturally in the food.  Besides, food cannot be absorbed the way it is into the bloodstream.

This is what makes enzymes very important. After your cat chews its food, enzymes break it down to smaller molecules that the body can absorb and put to good use.

What are the Main Enzymes in the Digestive System of a Cat?

There are three main enzymes in the digestive system of a cat; amylase, protease, and lipase. Amylases are responsible for breaking down carbohydrate foods into simple sugar molecules. Protease enzymes break down protein into amino acids and lipases break down fats into fatty acids and triglycerides. 

Other types of enzymes such as nucleases exist but the former three are needed in much larger amounts since their substrates (the foods they digest) are consumed in larger volumes.

As you can tell, without digestive enzymes, food would have nowhere to go and the body would have no way to use it. For this reason, digestive enzymes are just as important to pet nutrition as pet foods. 

Why do Cats Need Enzyme Supplements?

Why do Cats Need Enzyme Supplements

You may sometimes notice your cat having digestive issues every now and then despite being in perfect health. Well, it just might be that your cat is not producing adequate amounts of digestive enzymes.

In other cases, your cat may produce enough enzymes but the problem may be with the food.  Some foods undergo too much processing which alters their natural state causing a need for more enzymes. 

Some cat owners have resorted to feeding their exclusively raw foods in order to reduce the demand for food enzymes. However, this is not entirely necessary. Your cat can enjoy both cooked and raw food and still have normal digestion. 

In a normal healthy cat, the role of digestive enzymes still remains to be seen. The research on the benefits of digestive enzymes to a healthy cat is still contradicting. However, in cats that suffer from digestive discomfort, digestive enzymes have been shown to provide relief from signs and symptoms such as vomiting and loose stools. 

Causes of Lack of Digestive Enzymes

The cause of inadequate production of digestive enzymes varies among cats. Some of the common causes include:

  • Genetics. Your cat may be in perfect health but have genetically low enzyme production. This may be due to inborn issues like a relatively small pancreas and type 1 diabetes.

  • Injury to the gut. This may be caused by physical trauma to the digestive system for example if your cat fell down from a high table or got hit hard by a car.

  • Inflammation. Increased inflammation in the gut can damage digestive organs causing them to lose some of their functionality. Inflammation can be caused by a poor diet, poisoning, or inflammatory diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. This is a condition that causes the destruction of cells in the enzyme-producing part of the pancreas. It is a very serious illness with severe signs and symptoms like excessive vomiting. A cat with EPI should be started on digestive enzymes as soon as possible.  

  • Poor quality food. In some instances, a cat may be able to produce adequate digestive enzymes but still display signs of insufficient enzymes. This sometimes is because of the quality of food the cat is eating. Over Processed cat food may require more enzymatic action, therefore, causing a need for enzyme supplementation. 

What is a Probiotic? 

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits to another organism. Like the name indicates a probiotic is something that supports the life of another.

Probiotics can be in the form of bacteria, yeast, or fungi. Bacteria make up the largest percentage of probiotics in animals accounting for over 90%. 

The bodies of cats, similar to humans, have a variety of probiotics in them. The probiotics present at birth need to be supported in order for them to be maintained in adequate numbers.

It is important to provide a conducive environment in which probiotics can flourish and in turn keep the body healthy. To maintain the integrity of the microbiome, certain conditions have to be met for example good feeding habits and controlled use of antibiotics. 

However, sometimes with all these conditions in place, the probiotic count may still not be adequate. Luckily, there are probiotic supplements to help pet owners ensure that their cats are meeting their needs. 

Due to the modernization of diets, the gut microbiome of many pets is often not in the best shape. Since there are no signs and symptoms of having a mildly low probiotic count, it is not easily detected. For this reason, even cats that are seemingly healthy should be considered for probiotic therapy to improve their well-being. 

Probiotics Vs Digestive Enzymes for Cats

Both probiotics and enzymes for cats can be immensely beneficial. If you are wondering which to choose between the two, there is no need to wonder anymore. You do not have to choose. 

A probiotic and a digestive enzyme play different roles in the body. A probiotic supplement serves the purpose of boosting the number of good bacteria in the body.

An enzyme on the other hand is to assist in the digestion of food in the gut. Even better, they can both be given at the same time. There are even products on the market that have both digestive enzymes and probiotics in them. 

There is one key difference between probiotic and enzyme therapy. Healthy normal cats do not usually need to be supplemented with digestive enzymes. However, healthy normal cats may benefit from probiotic supplementation. This is because a seemingly healthy cat can be deficient in good bacteria. 

Benefits of Digestive Enzymes for Cats

Enzymes play a role in one of the most important body processes; digestion. If the digestion of foods is not at its best, nearly all systems of the body are negatively affected. This is because all systems need a steady supply of nutrients to function properly. 

For this reason, giving your pet digestive enzymes is not just about improving their digestion, it is about improving their well-being in general. 

Some of the health benefits you may see in your cat after giving her an enzyme supplement include:

  • Improved digestion. Of course.

  • Reduced occurrence of digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, vomiting, and so on. 

  • Healthy weight gain particularly in underweight cats

  • Increased energy levels. This is brought about by the improved digestion of energy-giving nutrients like starch, protein, and fat.

  • Boosts the strength of the immune system and all body systems in general

  • Reduced food sensitivities

  • Improved appearance of the skin, hair coat, and so on. 

Benefits of Probiotics for Cats

Probiotics can provide several health benefits to both unwell and healthy cats. Probiotics in the microbiome are similar to an organ in many ways. They produce beneficial enzymes, hormones, and other life-supporting chemicals. The microbiome should therefore be treated with as much care as we do other organs. 

If I told you your cat’s liver was shrinking, you would do anything to reverse the damage. When we let the microbiome fade, in a way it is similar to letting an important organ get damaged. 

Some of the benefits your cat will get from taking probiotics include;

  • Improved digestion

  • Improved immune function

  • Reduced food allergies and food sensitivities 

  • Restoration of the gut microbiome especially after antibiotic treatment 

How to Give Digestive Enzymes

How to Give Digestive Enzymes

The best way to give your cat a digestive enzyme supplement is to add it to her daily feeding routine. Digestive enzyme supplements usually come in the form of powder or chews. 

Chews can be given directly especially if they taste great for your cat. If your cat does not love the chews, you can try a powder. Powders can easily be added to food and your cat will easily eat the digestive enzyme supplement. If you are adding the powder to dry food such as cookies, consider adding some liquid to it. 

Follow the package instructions when giving your cat enzymes. If they are not available. Consult your vet on how much to give your cat. 

Do not heat digestive enzymes. This is because enzymes, being proteins, are destroyed by heat. If you are planning to freeze your cat’s food, it is advisable to add the enzymes after thawing the food.

Choosing the Best Dietary Supplements for Your Cat

The first step to choosing the best feline enzymes is to go with a reputable and trustworthy brand. Secondly, opt for an enzyme supplement that contains amylase, protease, and lipase. This is to ensure that the enzymes help with the digestion of the key nutrients; carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. 

Some supplements contain other enzymes like cellulase that breaks down the fiber in food from plant sources such as fruits and vegetables. You may also go for enzymes that are combined with other beneficial products like probiotics to give the digestive system an extra boost. 

Side Effects of Digestive Enzymes 

When used properly, digestive enzymes should be safe to consume for cats. However, in some instances, there may be side effects to enzyme therapy. Some of the potential negative effects of digestive enzymes include;

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Bloating

  • Digestive discomfort after eating food  

These signs and symptoms, if not severe should resolve as you use them if not, consult your vet immediately. 

Our Final Thoughts

Sleepy satisfied tabby cat on woman's lap

In conclusion, digestive enzymes provide several health benefits to cats. If you are considering giving your pet digestive enzymes, speak to your vet and give them a try.

They can provide relief from many health issues particularly those of the gut. Since all systems need nutrients to function properly, improving the digestion of food is bound to improve the health of the body in general. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What are the benefits of supplementing digestive enzymes? 

Some of the benefits of enzyme supplements include improved digestion, improved immune function, relief from digestive discomfort, and weight gain. 

What causes enzyme depletion in cats?

Damage to the pancreas in cats is the main cause of low enzyme production. Pancreatic damage can be caused by poison, poor diet, and physical trauma.

What enzyme do cats lack?

Cats tend to have inadequate amounts of the enzymes lipase, amylase, and protease. 

What are the symptoms of low digestive enzymes?

Signs and symptoms of low digestive enzymes include vomiting, diarrhea, and digestive discomfort.