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Why Do Cats Have Hanging Belly Pouches? Vet-Reviewed Primordial Pouch Explanation

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

british shorthair cat in grass

Why Do Cats Have Hanging Belly Pouches? Vet-Reviewed Primordial Pouch Explanation


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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It may seem that no matter how skinny a cat is, it always has a hanging belly. Although it may be easy to chalk this hanging belly up to your cat’s insatiable appetite, it is also because the cat has a primordial pouch that evolved to keep your cat safe and healthy.

To learn what a primordial pouch is and why your cat has it, keep reading.

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What Is a Primordial Pouch?

A primordial pouch is the extra flap of skin that lays under a cat’s belly. It often lies along the entire length of the stomach and is most notable towards your cat’s rear. This flap jiggles and sways as your cat moves and becomes more pronounced the heavier and older the cat gets.

This “pouch” is not a literal pouch since your cat can’t squirrel anything away inside it. Instead, it is simply a layer of skin that is saggier than elsewhere. Because of the sagginess of this pouch, all cats look a little bit fat, even when they are completely in shape.

cat walking outdoor
Image Credit: Santa3, Pixabay

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Why Do Cats Have Hanging Belly Pouches?

In addition to being absolutely adorable, this primordial pouch has served an important function in the existence of cats. Although it’s unclear exactly why this pouch evolved, scientists have three good hunches.

1. Protection

The most sensitive part of your cat’s body is its stomach. The stomach area provides easy access to some of the most sensitive and necessary organs in your cat’s body. This primordial pouch offers a little bit of extra protection to this sensitive area.

You might wonder why cats need extra protection in this area since they often walk on their feet anyway. Whenever cats get into fights, they often use their back claws as a weapon. This motion can easily damage and kill the opposing cat if the back claws strike into a vital organ.

American Polydactyl cat walking outside
Image Credit: Jenny Margarette, Shutterstock

2. Enhanced Running

If you’ve ever watched cats run before, you know that cats have to stretch out in order to get their fastest stride. With that little extra skin on their stomach, cats can stretch out slightly further since they have extra wiggle room, quite literally. This extra room aids your cat’s running abilities, whether it be running in the hunt or during a fight.

3. Food Storage

In the wild, cats are not always guaranteed a next meal, especially during the winter. Experts predict that the pouch allowed cats to eat more food in a single sitting because hunting success in the wild isn’t always guaranteed.

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What Cats Have the Most Pronounced Primordial Pouches?

All cats have a primordial pouch on their belly, however, there’s no known reason why some cats have a more pronounced pouch than others. Anecdotally, the Egyptian Mau, Bengal, and Pixie Bob tend to have relatively large primordial pouches. The pouch may also be more easily noticed in a hairless breed, such as the Sphynx when compared to long-haired or double-coated breeds.

Bengal Cat
Image Credit: Ishman00, Pixabay

How To Tell If Your Cat Is Overweight

With all cats having a primordial pouch as part of their natural anatomy, it might be difficult to assess if the flap you see under your cat’s belly is indicative of an overweight cat or just a very pronounced primordial pouch. Fortunately, there are ways to make this distinction.

For starters, it is important to know what the term overweight means. A cat is considered overweight when their body weight is 10% more than ideal. Cats that are overweight face several issues that a cat in a normal weight range wouldn’t. It’s more difficult for them to groom themselves, they are less mobile, more prone to injury, and more likely to develop insulin resistance. Left unchecked, an overweight cat may end up obese.

Obesity is a serious problem for many cats. It’s important to monitor your cat’s weight carefully to ensure that your pet is as healthy as can be.

Unfortunately, many people mistake the primordial pouch for the cat being overweight. No matter how much weight your cat loses, it’s nearly impossible for them to lose their pouch. So, it’s important to look at other signs of an overweight cat. Here are two quick tricks for determining if your cat is overweight:

Monitor Their Weight At Home

One of the best ways to keep track of your pet’s weight at home is by weighing them every week and keeping a log of their weight. A cat may not readily step onto a weighing scale, so the easiest way to do this is by weighing yourself first, then picking up your cat and weighing yourself again while you hold them. Subtracting your weight from the combined weight of both yourself and your cat will give you your cat’s weight.

The normal weight range for cats depends on their breed, age, neuter status, and gender. You can compare your cat’s weight with a standard for the breed to see if they’re overweight or not.

Consult Your Veterinarian

An easier way to check if your cat is overweight is by having your veterinarian examine them. Your veterinarian can factor in their medical history, management, and nutrition, along with the factors listed above to give you an indication of whether your cat is overweight or not. In addition, your vet can also teach you other tricks you can use at home to determine if your cat is packing on additional weight.

cat and vet. II_Stock-Asso_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

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Final Thought

Even though most cats live a cushy lifestyle today, the same has not always been true for their kind. To make the most out of a meal amid fierce competition, and be protected during a physical confrontation, cats evolved with primordial pouches that are still visible today.

As a result, even the healthiest of indoor cats will have a small primordial pouch. This pouch does not mean that your cat is fat. It simply means that your cat is protected through the same flap of skin used to protect its wild ancestors.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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