Cadmium (Cd) is a toxic heavy metal that poses a threat to the health of humans and animals. It can cause serious damage to the small intestine, which is the main absorption site of Cd and the primary target organ after oral administration. Our previous study found that zinc chelate of hydroxy analogue of methionine (Zn-HMTB), a new type of feed additive, decreased Cd accumulation in the liver and kidneys. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of Zn-HMTB on Cd absorption and Cd-induced toxicity in the small intestine of piglets. Twenty-four piglets (Landrace × Large White, 13.22 ± 0.58 kg BW) were randomly divided into four dietary treatment groups: basal diet, and diets containing 30 mg/kg Cd from CdCl2 and 0, 100 or 200 mg/kg Zn from Zn-HMTB. The experiment lasted 27 days. The feed intake and final BW of each piglet were recorded at the end of the experiment. Gastrointestinal (GI) tract tissue and samples of liver, kidney, spleen, heart, lung and longissimus muscle tissue and faeces were collected. The concentrations of Cd and metal trace elements in the GI tract and organs were analysed, as was the relative messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of inflammatory cytokines and metal element transporters in the small intestine, and epithelial apoptosis in the small intestine. The results showed that, compared with Cd-treated piglets, piglets in the Zn-HMTB and Cd cotreatment groups had less Cd deposition in the stomach, ileum, caecum, colon, liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, heart and muscles (P < 0.05), and lower Cd concentrations in faeces (P < 0.05), suggesting that Zn-HMTB increased Cd absorption and the excretion of Cd in other forms (possibly urine). Zinc chelate of hydroxy analogue of methionine increased Zn deposition in the jejunum and the relative mRNA expression of divalent metal transporters 1 and zinc transporter 5 in the duodenum (P < 0.05), indicating that Zn-HMTB may promote the absorption and transportation of Cd and Zn together by upregulating metal element transporters. Competition between Zn and Cd may be responsible for accelerating Cd excretion. Furthermore, Zn-HMTB reduced Cd-induced apoptosis of enterocytes and inflammatory stimuli in the small intestine, suggesting that Zn-HMTB reduced Cd-induced toxicity to the small intestine. These results suggest that Zn-HMTB can be helpful in decreasing Cd accumulation in the GI tract and organs of piglets and relieving Cd-induced toxicity to the small intestine but cannot reduce the absorption of Cd.