The best way to understand how the digestive system works is to follow food as it progresses through the system. The cat grasps food with its teeth and lips. Some chew the pieces, others swallow them whole. In the mouth, saliva moistens and lubricates the food so it’s more easily swallowed. The tongue then pushes food back through the pharynx into the esophagus. Located mainly in the chest cavity, the esophagus is the part of the alimentary canal that connects the mouth to the stomach. Food immediately moves from the esophagus into the stomach.
The stomach, which is positioned in the abdominal cavity’s left side behind the liver, is the body’s adjustable reservoir for food and liquids. Food that reaches the stomach mixes with gastric secretions. Glands secrete hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes, which initiate the food breakdown process; other glands secrete mucus that thinly coats the mucosa (the alimentary tract’s lining), protecting it from damaging acid and enzymes. Once food has been mixed and treated with the acid and enzymes, it passes into the intestinal tract for final digestion and absorption.