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My Cat Has a Fat Pouch on Its Belly

 
By Laura García Ortiz, Veterinarian specialized in feline medicine. November 24, 2021
My Cat Has a Fat Pouch on Its Belly

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Although you might not notice it when they are newborn, you may see your cat start to develop a fat pouch on their belly. Even if your cat is otherwise slim and lithe, you might see they have a fat belly. This can make us worry if they are eating too much or are suffering from an inflammation which poses a health risk. Fortunately, we should know that most cats have something known as a primordial pouch. This is a sac of belly fat which hangs down on their abdomen. Not only does it pose no threat, it actually provides benefit to the cat.

At AnimalWised, we look at why your cat has a fat pouch on their belly. We understand why cats have a primordial pouch and what benefits it provides to them.

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What is the primordial pouch in cats?

The primordial pouch in cats, sometimes known as the primordial sac, belly flap or simply feline pouch, is located between the hind limbs underneath their belly. Its appearance is similar to when an animal loses weight quickly and they are left with loose skin. However, the primordial pouch has nothing to do with being overweight or obese. Most cats will have some level of primordial pouch, with some being more pronounced than others.

Kittens do not develop their primordial pouch until around 6 months of age, although this can vary. In some cases, it seems to appear suddenly after neutering. For this reason, females are sometimes said to have a ‘spay sway’. Although overweight cats can have more belly fat and will have a more pronounced pouch, their diet and exercise are not important factors in their pouches.

While not literally primordial, we can trace the existence of the primordial pouch to some of the first feline breeds in the wild. Below we look at why this quirk of feline anatomy developed. You may notice your cat as it sways while they are walking, when lying down or, commonly, when they expose their belly to you.

Reasons cats have a primordial pouch

Cats do not need to have a fat pouch on their belly to survive. However, it can prove very useful in certain circumstances. its development can occur regardless of how their basic needs are covered or whether they exercise more or less. If you have been wondering why your cat has a fat pouch on their belly, it is important to know there is nothing to worry about in the vast majority of cases.

Despite the fact our cats have been domesticated, they still retain certain features inherited from their wild counterparts. This can help us to understand some of the reasons cats have a primordial pouch:

  • Stores fat: the primordial pouch stores a quantity of fat that is very useful for obtaining energy in times of scarcity. As they did not know if they were going to eat the next day, this excess skin allowed the stomach to expand more when they did eat to retain food for longer. There is little debate over wild cats having this as it seems to play an important function during times of less food, e.g. winter.
  • Facilitates movement: having an excess of skin, the primordial sac allows greater elasticity. It does so by having a greater amount of tissue to be stretched and extended before movements such as jumping or extending the limbs for running. Thanks to this structure, cats can perform wider, taller or longer movements than other animals.
  • Protects the abdominal area: this excess skin and fat offers added protection of the vital organs that we find in that area of the abdomen against threats, blows or attacks. For example, when cats fight each other, they usually use their hind legs to attack each other. These legs and their attached claws will often be aimed at the cat's undercarriage, so the pouch can provide better protection where needed.

Cat breeds with primordial pouch

Not all cats have a primordial pouch, as we have commented. It does not depend on sex, age or breed. Environmental factors do not appear to play any significant role. It is a genetic inheritance which can appear to various degrees. However, there are some cat breeds which are more likely than others to develop the pouch. These include:

  • Egyptian Mau
  • Japanese Bobtail
  • Pixie Bob
  • Bengal

As you may be able to tell, these cats are all breeds which more closely resemble their wild cousins. The crosses of these breeds can also present a primordial pouch more frequently. However, due to the evolution of the species, it appears cats are developing the excess fat less and less.

There are people who think that cats that possess the primordial pouch have a ‘warrior gene’. It is said this gene gives them courage, determination and qualities above and beyond what can be expected of a domestic cat. This is likely due to the fact it is also present on big cats such as the lion, jaguar and tiger. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this.

Learn more about wild traits in domestic cats with our lists of cats that look like leopards and cats that look like lions.

My Cat Has a Fat Pouch on Its Belly - Cat breeds with primordial pouch

Primordial puches and obesity in cats

While a cat does not need to be obese to have a primordial pouch, it can sometimes be confused with being overweight. When we see the cat has a fat pouch, we are not wrong in describing it as such. However, this is a healthy reserve of fat and not something which will harm their health. Obesity in cats, conversely, can seriously affect their health and well-being.

If we think our cat might be overweight, we need to look for excess fat in other areas. These include the thorax, neck, legs and even tail. To understand if a cat is overweight, we need to look at them from a bird's eye view. With their primordial pouch underneath their bodies, we won't be able to see it from this angle. However, we will be able to see if their belly protrudes at the sides and indicates they are overweight.

Since the primordial pouch rests at their belly, we also need to be sure to differentiate this from health problems. If a cat has a tumor in this area, it can be hidden by the pouch. Remember, the primordial pouch is soft, so if the cat's belly feels hard, it means something is wrong. If it is not a tumor, it can be a digestive problem such as peritonitis or ascites.

In cases when the extra weight is not due to a primordial pouch, you may see symptoms of disease. Take them to a veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Has a Fat Pouch on Its Belly, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.

Bibliography
  • Harvey, A., & Tasker, S. (Eds). (2014). Feline Medicine Manual. Ed. Sastre Molina, SL L ́Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain.

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