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Why Do Cats Have Hanging Belly Pouches? (Primordial Pouch)

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.

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Image Credit: Santa3, Pixabay

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.

Protection

The most sensitive part on 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 anyways. 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

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.

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 when they had access to it so that they could survive the winter and other hard times.

What Cats Have The Most Pronounced Primordial Pouches?

Cats that are still closely related to their wild ancestors often have the most pronounced primordial pouches. For example, the Egyptian Mau, Bengal, and Pixie Bob tend to have relatively large primordial pouches. This is likely due to their closer relationship to wild cats than other domesticated varieties.

Bengal Cat
Image Credit: Ishman00, Pixabay

How To Tell If My Cat Is Overweight

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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 it to lose its 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:

The Spine Trick

One way to determine if your cat is overweight is by running your hands down the cat’s back. If you can easily feel each bone, your cat is likely healthy. Overweight cats often have so much fat over the spine that it’s difficult to pinpoint every individual bone.

The Eagle Eye Trick

Another way to see if your cat is overweight is by standing directly above it. You should be able to see your cat’s waist, which is the space between its hips and ribs. If that area protrudes, the cat is overweight.

When To See A Vet

If you suspect that your cat is overweight, you should take it to the vet immediately. The vet will do a thorough examination to confirm the health status of your cat. From there, the vet can help walk you through a diet plan to get your cat back into healthy shape.

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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. In order to survive harsh winters and fierce competition, 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.

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