Primordial Pouch 101: Why Cat Bellies Hang

Primordial Pouch 101: Why Cat Bellies Hang

The first time you notice that your cat’s belly is hanging a bit lower than you remember, you might assume they have gained some weight. While this may be true for some cats, it could also be likely that you are noticing your cat’s primordial pouch. This is just fancy language for an “extra flap of skin underneath a cat’s belly.”

Some cat’s primordial pouches are more visible than in other breeds. This has to do with genetics and their appearance, so if you can’t notice your feline friend’s primordial pouch, don’t be surprised.

To learn more about the primordial pouch, keep reading:

What Is a Primordial Pouch?

A primordial pouch is the extra flap of skin that hangs underneath your cat’s belly. Regardless of male, female, neutered, spayed, or not, your cat will have one. The pouch is formed in one of the earliest stages of a cat’s development.

This flap is made up of loose skin and fatty tissue and it serves several biological purposes. Certain breeds’ primordial pouch might be more visible than others because of a lack of fur or more slender appearance.

Why Do Cats Have a Primordial Pouch?

It’s pretty simple: Cats have a primordial pouch for a variety of reasons, including organ protection, storing food, and flexibility.

Organ Protection

One of the main purposes of the primordial pouch is to protect your cat’s organs. This pouch allows for an extra layer between your vital organs, like the liver, and injury. Sometimes cats like to play rough, and claws can come out! If the pouch gets clawed or kicked, their organs are more likely to be safe.

Some cats will enforce a move referred to as “bunny kicking” where they will grab their opponent with their front legs and kick with their hind legs. This directly aims for the underbelly, where the organs are, so the pouch creates a barrier between this kind of attack. Pouches keep cats safe!

Food Storage

The softness of your cat’s primordial pouch allows for their belly to expand when they eat food. Not only domesticated cats have primordial pouches, even wild cats have these pouches. For them specifically, having this pouch helps them store food when food is low in availability.

Domesticated cats don’t usually have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Instead, they can use this extra space when they snack a little too much and feel extra full. It’s like wearing a nice pair of sweatpants after a big meal.

Flexibility

Primordial pouches also enhance felines’ movement and flexibility. The loose skin that comes from the pouch allows for easier movement. Cats can chase prey quicker and escape any predators they might come across by twisting and turning about.

The primordial pouch helps cats make stronger, more powerful strides — the primordial pouch elongates their body. Not only does this make them more nimble, but it conserves energy which they can divert to other tasks (like knocking your newly potted succulent off the table).

Other Reasons for a Cat’s Belly To Hang

Yes, cats have primordial pouches and that’s definitely a reason why you’re noticing some extra skin underneath, but there are other causes for a hanging belly. Sometimes, it’s not a bad idea to check out your cat’s stomach and see if there is anything else going on. If you think that your cat’s belly is hanging lower than usual, you can reach out to their veterinarian and schedule time for an evaluation.

Obesity

It might be that your cat is gaining weight. This isn’t always an issue, especially if your cat is still happy and healthy. But if you notice that your cat is struggling with moving around or using the bathroom, their weight is something you should take care of.

In order to figure out if it’s extra weight or just the primordial pouch, you can feel your cat’s sides and stomach, looking for their ribs or an extra layer of fat. If you can feel their ribs, likely, you are looking at their pouch. If you can’t feel them and notice an extra layer of fat, you might need to begin implementing a diet and more exercise.

Taking your cat to the vet when you suspect they are overweight is probably best to create a plan to help them lose weight. They can provide you with food or exercise regimens that can help your cat maintain a better weight.

Aging

As your cat ages, it’s likely that their skin will begin to lose elasticity. This is normal and might make your cat’s stomach hang a bit more than usual. This is typically nothing to worry about as it happens as they get older and enter their golden years. Additionally, your cat’s metabolism will begin to slow as they get older and they will likely gain more weight than they might be used to.

Pregnancy

Another reason for your cat’s belly to be hanging a bit more than normal could be due to pregnancy. If your cat is not spayed, there is always a possibility that they could become pregnant. If you think this might be the case, avoid touching the belly as it could bring harm to the kittens inside. Instead, contact your veterinarian and go in for a full physical evaluation.

If a cat is pregnant, they will begin showing around five weeks. Cats stay pregnant for eight to nine weeks (60 to 65 days), so it’s important to get a vet appointment as soon as possible to ensure your cat has a safe pregnancy.

Get Answers with AskVet

As a pet parent, you likely have two things: 1) a thousand pictures of your pet on your phone and 2) a list of questions to ask your vet at the next animal wellness exam.

You might have minor questions or serious concerns about your pet that you want answered, but don’t know where to ask. Look no further than AskVet. For any question or concern that you have, someone at AskVet has an answer.

With AskVet, you have access to a team of Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ who can help form well-rounded care plans to keep your cat (or fish, frog, dog, or an assortment of reptiles) happy and healthy.

So, if you’re wondering, “Has my cat’s belly always looked like that” at 2 AM, you can simply use the AskVet app to get that question answered. Schedule an appointment with a CPLC™ and get 24/7 assistance. No wait time and no “after hours.” Just the help you need when you need it, plus all the preventative care your pet family members need.

Sources:

Overweight In Adult Cats: A Cross-Sectional Study | NCBI

2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines | SAGE Journals 

Why do cats have belly ‘pouches’? | Live Science

Cat’s Primordial Belly Pouches– What is it For? | Science Times

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