Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 3, 2023 by Crystal Uys

ginger kitten getting a pill from veterinarian

Enzymes are tiny protein molecules that are found in every living cell. They are responsible for vital chemical reactions in your cat’s body, including proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. A lack of enzymes in your cat’s system will result in digestive upsets and a less than optimal immune system.

Benefits of Enzymes in Cats

  • Aid in the digestion and absorption of the vitamins and minerals in the cat’s diet
  • Promote normal body weight
  • Support healthy cell growth
  • Reduce bloating and constipation
  • Increase energy due to better absorption of nutrients
  • Support immune system health
  • Help remove toxins
  • Help reduce food sensitivities and allergies
  • Can help cats who suffer from chronic hairballs

Digestive Enzymes and Their Function in Cats

There are four main digestive enzymes. They work in the stomach and intestines to break down nutrients for easier absorption.

  • Protease breaks down and digests protein
  • Amlase breaks down/digests carbohydrates and starches
  • Lipase breaks down and digests fa
  • Cellulase breaks down and digests fiber (not to be confused with cellulose, a common ingredient used in low end pet foods which is extremely harsh on the intestinal tract)
    cat-pill-medication Image Credit: inxti, Shutterstock

Where Do Digestive Enzymes Come From?

Enzymes come from two sources: your cat’s food, and her body. Unfortunately, only raw, fresh food contains enzymes. Enzymes are fragile, and are easily destroyed by heat, pesticides, herbicides, food preservatives, additives, artificial colorings, and flavor enhancers. Enzymes in your cat’s body are easily depleted by exposure to environmental toxins, air pollutants, and medications.

Adding Digestive Enzymes to Your Cat’s Diet

The only way a food maintains all its natural enzymes is if it’s uncooked, unpasteurized, non-irradiated and not processed with any source of heat. Not many commercial cat foods qualify, which is why supplementation of digestive enzymes is a good practice. Even manufacturers of commercial prey model diets don’t add fur, entrails and glands to their diets.

Adding a good digestive enzyme supplement to your cat’s diet on a daily basis, even if you feed a high end premium diet, ensures that your cat can extract all the nutrients from her food, and supports optimal cellular function.

I recommend and use Dr. Goodpet’s Feline Digestive Enzymes for Allegra and Ruby. This brand contains Protease, Amylase, Lipase and Cellulase, as well as a nice concentration of Lactobacillus, a probiotic. I recommend daily supplementation with a probiotic for all cats, and I like that this product provides both. I add this unflavored powder to their food twice a day.

Featured Image Credit: Andrew Rafalsky, Shutterstock

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44 Comments on Benefits of Digestive Enzymes for Cats & Their Functions

  1. Thanks for the thoughtfully written article, Ingrid. Great information! I just ordered a bottle of Dr Goodpet enzymes for my boy. He’s FIV+ and also has asthma. Additionally, he’s been struggling with a lot of food allergies… we’ve tried chicken, fish, duck, turkey, lamb… he seems to have issues with all. At one point he was on a hydrolyzed diet but that was causing diarrhea. I’m wondering if there’s an enzyme issue. He currently gets one capsule/day of Nutramax Proviable DC. Can I give that along with the enzyme powder, or would that be too much since Dr Goodpets already contains a probiotic?

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Considering all the variables your cat has it is best to have any treatment seen by a veterinarian who evaluates his biological samples and provides you the best recommendation for his specific case.
      The probiotic content in Dr. Goodpets Feline Digestive Enzymes is not as large or varied as the Naturamax product. Giving both products should not be an issue but ideally, they should be separated by at least a couple hours. However, every animal is different and you should carefully evaluate his behavior and any changes in toilet habits. Again, our recommendation would be to get your cat checked by a veterinarian before considering any change in their diet, supplements, or medication regimes.

    • I recommend this product, it’s a combination of probiotics and digestive enzymes in a flavorless powder:

  2. Hello, I just purchased this in hopes to help my kitty out. It was delivered on a very hot day and sat in the mailbox for a while before I could get to the package. When I opened the package, the bottle was very warm. Do you think that the heat did any damage to the enzymes or to the product at all?

  3. My 16-year-old cat, Savannah, was recently diagnosed with CFD. I’m heartbroken. She’s always been a very thin, bony cat although she has a voracious appetite (only wet food, and high quality). My vet wants her on a restricted prescription diet. I’m a bit unsure about this, but I will try it. She’s scheduled for a sonogram in a few days. Vet said to wait on giving her anything until results come back. My question is, will a digestive enzyme and probiotic added to her food help her to gain weight? Thanks for listening.

    • Do you mean CKD, Joy? If so, this article should help:

  4. Hi Ingrid. My cat Shelby almost died, she went down to 5 pounds, was dehydrated and would not eat. She began with diarrhea and went down real fast. Thanks to these awesome vets someone recommended they found out her intestine would swell, she could either not poop or have diarrhea. She had to have enemas 3 times and be hydrated. When I was ready to let her go vets gave her an injection of vitamin B and Cortisone and put her on 2 ml of prednisone daily. Now she’s doing fine, weights 9 pounds and is taking 0.5 of prednisone every other day. Every time we try to take her off the prednisone she begins vomiting so I guess is going to have to be for life. I had never heard of the probiotics for cats until this lady I catsit for told me about it. I just ordered Dr Goodpet Feline Digestive Enzymes, I hope she gains maybe 2 pounds cause she does look thin. Vets told me the name of what she has but just now I can’t remember (sorry). She does vomit every once in a while and we just noticed that this plug in diffusers is what is making her vomit. Now we stopped using them. Thank you for your advise, I’ve always been a dog person and began having cats 8 yrs ago and I have a lot more to learn!

  5. Great article. Thank you. I just got my bottle of Dr Goodpet Feline Digestive Enzymes

    Ollie Mae is geriatric at 17/18 years old and has recently lost weight (vet says she is okay). How long do you think it will take until the enzymes help her to absorb nutrients so she is not hungry all of the time and GAINS WEIGHT BACK?

    • That’s impossible to predict, Debbie. If bloodwork and other exams didn’t show any reason for the weight loss, and if it truly is an enzyme deficiency, you should see results pretty quickly, but there may be an underlying disease process that hasn’t shown up in the testing your vet did.

  6. I got these enzymes for my cat after reading this blog and after my cat had a scary stint of Pancreatitis with our email female 9yr old rescue tabby. I gave her 1/4 of a teaspoon with her food every morning once a day with a mix of her regular wet food. She started pooping outside of the litter box about 3 times within the 1st two weeks we started giving her the enzymes everyday. And they are really big poops, very unlike her, and they are a little runny in texture, but normal brown color (sorry for details :). I figured it might be a little too much? So I’m thinking of cutting back to 1/8 teaspoon or not giving them her at all? Everything I’ve read says it can’t be bad for a cat, so wondering if the poops outside the box are behavioral or I should get 2 litter boxes as I only have one right now? Not sure what to do.

    • Probiotics and enzymes should not cause a change in litter box behavior, so there may be something else going on. If you didn’t change anything else at the time you started giving the enzymes, I would reduce the amount a bit (although it’s really not possible to overdose on these). Adding another litter box is always a good idea, even for a single cat, I usually recommend having two boxes.

  7. Thanks for the great info – a couple of quick questions – I have a foster kitty with EPI. He is getting prescription enzymes before each meal, via syringe since they are so potent and bitter. Can I add probiotics to the syringe?
    And can I give him 1/8 of a capsule of my human probiotic? I take an amazing gut-healing probiotic called VSL #3 that I would love to give him, but know our needs are different and I want to be safe. I know products designed for cats are *best – but would the human version be harmful?

    • You can add the probiotics to the syringe, but since most probiotics are flavorless, you may be able to mix them with his food without any problems. Human probiotics with no other ingredients should be okay to give.

  8. I agree with supplementing digestive enzymes and pre/probiotics for healthy digestion. I use Tummy Works, as it has a great blend of enzymes and biotics in good dossages at a good price. My cats like it and have no trouble eating it mixed in their wet food. It helped my kitty, Dax, with his chronic cholitis before we lost him last week.

  9. I started giving my 6 month old kitten the Dr. Goodpet powder twice a day with his wet food. I noticed he poops bigger and more often now than before I introduced this to his diet. I’ve read that cats usually poop less on a wet-food only diet, so I’m slightly concerned about the frequency and size. He seems healthy otherwise, though!

    • That’s unusual, as the digestive enzymes in the Dr. Goodpet product should actually help him absorb more nutrients, which should reduce the size of his stool rather than increase it. As long as he’s healthy otherwise, it’s probably not a concern. You may want to change to a different brand food to see if that changes anything.

  10. I regret to say that I took this advice and started giving it to my cat. Now she is scratching more (not a single flea in site, and on regular flea meds) has constant goop in her eyes and her lip is drooping! never had this problem with Purina. She eats her am food no problem but this I give her at night. Amazon won’t return it and now I am left with a once healthy cat reluctant to eat (and she is already bordering underweight).

    • I suspect that there may be something else going on, Jody. If you haven’t already taken your cat to the vet since she’s had this reaction, I’d urge you to do so as soon as possible.

  11. I ordered digestive enzymes for my cat whose stool has not returned to normal since he had some kind of GI infection (we still don’t know what caused it). It’s too early to see any changes quite yet, but I was wondering how long I should give it to him? Indefinitely? Or stop after his stool returns to normal? I feed him a high quality, high protein canned food. We were feeding him raw, and I am reluctant to go back to it since we do not know what cause his GI crisis to begin with. I am also give him a probiotic.

    • I recommend probiotics as a daily supplement, and I would give the enzymes at least until the stools return to normal and his GI tract has healed completely.

      • I had the same problem with my cat about a 1.5 years ago. I was loosing her. She lost a considerable amount of weight and could not take any food, everything went out almost immediately. Though she was on the best commercial food at the time with no additives and no carbs, she still deteriorated. I switched her diet to home made with supplements that I ordered from Dr. Andrew Jones (Ultimate Feline Supplements), and force fed her for 2 month. She was gaining weight and her vomiting episodes were almost gone. Have to emphasize that I started her on one novel protein *(meat she never had before, like rabbit or turkey) which is very important. I also put her food bowl higher, level with her neck just in case she has acid reflux that causes her to vomit. Also, gradually I tried to decrease the time of cooking but she could not take it easily yet. It needs time for GI cats to introduce them to the raw, their stomach and intestines need to heal. But It is the best food and it should be aim to finally introduce them to the raw food. I did one more thing just a week ago, and added digestive enzymes to her and my other cat food. I ordered it from Dr Mercola and have to say that my cat did not vomit a single time even though I gave her half-cooked meat (she had occasional episodes from time to time, especially when she quickly gulps her food. Have to mention that after those initial 2 month of force feeding she started eating by herself with a great appetite). I also plan to add probiotics slowly later as this might further help improve digestion and health overall.

  12. Hi Ingrid! Thanks for the info! I have rescued a little kitten and she has had a persistent digestive problem for months, even thought she had been treated for worms and giardia (she was ridden with flees, had persistent otites, skin fungus, and was anemic) . Under your recommendation (actually, because of this post), I bought Dr. Goodpet enzymes and have been feeding it to all my cats (the sickly one and the healthy ones) for a couple of months now. I’m glad to say she has improved wonderfully! She hasn’t had any digestive problems and her coat looks incredible! So thank you!

  13. I’m wondering if probiotics will help an FIV+ cat I’ve recently rescued. He has chronic diarrhea. He’s otherwise pretty healthy and looks much better since I’ve brought him inside (i.e. Flea dermatitis has cleared up -his coat is full and scabs are almost gone). Thanks!

    • I would definitely add probiotics to your recent rescue’s diet, Jeanne. They may help clear the diarrhea, and they also help boost the immune system, which is important for FIV+ cats.

  14. Hi Ingrid, thanks for this info…. do you suggest adding the digestive enzymes even if I feed
    my cats commercial raw food? (frozen Primal and dehydrated Stella & Chewys)

    thanks again for your invaluable information!

    • I think it’s still a good idea, Brandy. Even though commercial raw food is minimally processed, it still looses some of its natural enzymes during the freezing or dehydration process.

  15. Great info Ingrid! I’ve just started supplementing with a probiotic, and the enzyme depletion from tin food is what has been nagging me. Thank you for the product info. I am so VERY glad I found your site, it’s the best most practical, enjoyable way to get excellent information. I’m spreading the word about you as best I can. You’re wonderful, thank you, and on behalf of me and my kittykat 🙂 Much love.
    We’re so glad you do what you do, and it shows – literally.

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