If you are a cat person, you’ve probably noticed that your feline-friends have a hanging belly. While many people might think that this saggy pouch of skin is a reflection of a cat gaining and losing weight, or carrying a little extra belly fat, it in fact has an important purpose. All cats have a primordial pouch (also called an abdominal fold) and it serves an important function in the wild. However, certain domestic breeds have more visible pouches than others. These pouches are basically an extra layer of skin and run along the length of the abdomen. They are oftentimes most noticeable near the cat’s back legs and often have a squishy feeling that is similar to a plastic bag or balloon half-filled with water. Cats of both sexes have a primordial pouch and contrary to certain theories, it is not caused by spaying or neutering your pet. The primordial pouch is linked to survival, better movement, and food storage and is thus an important attribute for cats in the wild, and their domestic counterparts.
So, why do our cats have a primordial pouch? Let’s have a look at the key benefits of this extra abdominal skin.
The Primordial Pouch Protects Their Vital Organs When They Engage in Fights
If you are a cat parent, you will know that some kitties find themselves in cat fights. Cat fights can get pretty aggressive and oftentimes may lead to some nasty injuries. When cats fight, they typically kick each other with their hind legs and sharp claws. This has the potential to cause damage to their vital organs. However, the primordial pouch aims to protect these important organs and, in some cases, allows cats to conveniently maneuver away from predators.
It Allows for Easier Movement – Both Running and Jumping
The primordial pouch also offers your cat the amazing ability to stretch and move freely. It allows for full bodily extension when your cat runs, thus ultimately allowing them to move faster. This developmental feature was super important for wild cats in nature and would allow them to move faster and catch their prey. This extended fold also enables them to easily jump and move around. Cats often jump onto higher areas and are skillful climbers. Historically they would climb into high trees so that they could look out for prey. It is a means of survival for them and thanks to the primordial pouch they can reach high places.
Can Be Used for Food Storage
Another incredible benefit of the primordial pouch is its ability to store food. They allow cats to store a bit of extra food in their stomachs and this is particularly important for cats in the wild who might not know where their next meal is coming from. Thus, much like a camel’s hump is able to store excess water in drought-stricken areas, the primordial pouch enables wild cats to sustain themselves when food is scarce. Cats in the wild would usually gorge themselves full when they were able to catch prey and this specialized pouch enabled them to eat more food. Domestic cats of course have a regular feeding routine and don’t need to eat as much at a given time as cats in the wild. Nonetheless, the primordial pouch has remained.
Is It Obesity, or a Primordial Pouch?
While all cats have a primordial pouch, obesity is, unfortunately, a growing problem amongst domestic pets. Obesity can cause a myriad of health problems from heart disease to diabetes and thus needs to be dealt with by a medical professional.
The primordial pouch is loser than conventional belly fat and is able to swing easily while they walk. Cats who are suffering from obesity will have a rounder stomach and it will not swing easily while they walk or run. Primordial pouches feel loose and wobbly, whereas overweight cats’ stomachs will feed harder and more solid. If you think your cat is struggling with obesity consult your vet and get them onto a specialized diet. You can also get an automated cat feeder that will allow you to control portion size. Obesity can be a sign of more serious conditions and thus needs to be dealt with medically before serious conditions set in.
What Breeds Are Prone to Having Prominent Primordial Pouches?
While all cats have a primordial pouch, certain breeds boast more visible and prominent pouches. These breeds include:
- Bengal cats: These beautiful cats hail from Asia and are now a well-loved domestic breed. Known for their leopard-like coats, they boast exotic beauty and showcase a gorgeous hybrid between their wild ancestors and their now domesticated nature.
- Egyptian Mau cats: This cat hails from Egypt originally and is known for its spotty coat. They are known for their incredible leaping skills (thanks to that primordial pouch) and are able to run at great speeds per hour.
- The Pixiebob cat: This well-loved domestic cat is known for its polydactyl abilities and thus they often have more fingers and toes than usual. This muscular cat has similarities to wild bobcats found in mountainous ranges in the US and the primordial pouch allows for swift movement and food storage.
Thus, the primordial pouch is essential for cats in the wild and allows for better protection during fights, swifter movement, easier jumping, and food storage. While domestic cats might not need the primordial pouch as much as their wild counterparts, it is an important and totally normal feature and one that has great historical significance.
- Nicholas DeMarino, What Is the Primordial Pouch in Cats?, The Nest
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.