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June 29, 2022
Your cat is precious from their head to the tip of their tail and everything in between, including that adorable belly flap. But what exactly is the saggy piece of skin that hangs down under your feline friend? It’s a primordial pouch, and all cats have one, although they can vary in size depending on your cat.
A cat’s primordial pouch runs along their underside, usually saggiest near the hind legs. It’s a combo of fur, skin, and fat—and it's perfectly normal. But, it’s still somewhat of a mystery as to why felines, big and small (yep, even lions and tigers), have them. However, veterinarians have theories, including providing flexibility and protection and acting as an energy reserve.
So, your cat’s cute pooch is there for a reason, even if that reason is a bit fuzzy. Here’s all you need to know about your kitty’s primordial pouch.
The saggy, swaying flap on your cat’s stomach is simply a mix of fur, fat, and skin that hangs below their belly. It’s typically saggier toward the back legs. It’s similar to the extra skin a cat has around its neck, which many call the scruff.
The scruff allows cats to pick up their kittens by the neck without hurting them. Some people like to hold cats this way; however, “scruffing” your cat should be avoided.
Cats are born with primordial pouches, although the pocket isn’t usually visible immediately. It continues to develop as a cat grows. Therefore, if you've had your cat since they were a kitten, it could seem as if the pouch just appears. But it’s been there the whole time.
What does a primordial pouch do besides being an extra spot to trap loose litter? No one knows exactly, but veterinarians have three main theories.
One suggestion is that this extra skin stretches as a cat moves and runs, giving them more flexibility. It also enables them to move faster and leap further, as well as a dart from side to side more efficiently. These qualities come in rather handy when escaping a predator or chasing prey.
The extra layer of fat, skin, and fur protects your cat. If your furry friend gets in a cat fight, the pouch adds a barrier between claws and teeth and your pet’s stomach. Therefore, it helps keep your kitty’s internal organs safe.
Another theory is that the primordial pouch serves as fat storage, allowing cats to access necessary energy when food is scarce. This might seem unnecessary to you since you serve your cat their favorite fish dinners in a decorative bowl.
But, cats don’t have anyone preparing their meals in the wild. So, after a particularly large kill, they would store the extra fat as an energy reserve.
All of these might be plausible theories, but in the end, the primordial pouch remains a mystery. (Very much like your cat when they’re giving you that stare, you know the one).
All cats have primordial pouches, regardless of gender. So, that saggy belly doesn’t mean the cat just had a litter of kittens. In fact, some cat owners even swear that their male cat has a bigger pouch. And some cats have a more pronounced pouch than others because of their breed.
Through breeding, many cats’ pouches have become smaller. Some are so small that you might not even notice them until your cat runs and it swings from side to side. Others have large pouches that almost act like a Swiffer as they run across the floor. However, several cat breeds have a distinctive primordial pouch, including some rare cat breeds.
Your cat’s jelly belly, or whatever affectionate nickname you give it, might seem like excess body fat. However, a cat doesn’t develop a primordial pouch because of obesity.
Remember, the extra skin, fur, and fat hanging down isn’t your cat’s stomach. And all cats get to show off a saggy belly flap, not just ones who need to lose a few pounds. But, it’s essential to recognize if that extra flab is normal or if your cat is carrying excess weight.
According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, roughly 59.5% of cats were overweight as of 2018. Obesity can lead to many serious issues, including diabetes, heart problems, and an increased risk for some cancers. It could also contribute to arthritis in cats or make the condition more challenging.
So how do you tell the difference? Typically, the pouch on your cat’s tummy swings side to side as they run. It starts below your cat and is more pronounced near their back legs. However, if your cat’s overweight, their belly would start toward the top of their underside and continue around to the other side.
Basically, look at your cat’s overall body shape to assess their weight status. If your cat is obese, you’ll notice their body is more rounded. You would also have difficulty seeing or feeling your cat’s ribs beneath their skin.
If your cat is at a healthy weight, you should notice an indentation around the waist area when you look at them from above. Also, you would be able to feel their ribs more easily when you press on their skin.
Of course, you can also weigh your cat. The best way to weigh your cat at home is to pick up your cat and stand on a scale. Then, weigh yourself and subtract the two numbers. The difference is your cat’s weight.
The average healthy weight for a typical house cat is about 10 pounds, but many factors can alter this number. For example, the standard weight range for a male Maine Coon is between 15 and 25 pounds. Next time you're at the vet, ask them for their recommendation on what your cat’s weight should be.
Now that you know more about your cat’s primordial pouch, you know that it’s just more of your cat to love—so keep adoring the squishiness. But remember to stay on top of regular vet checks with your pet and monitor their size. If you suspect that pouch is becoming more than just a cute belly-rub magnet, check your cat's weight
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