If you’ve noticed your cat’s tummy sinking in more than usual, you’re not alone. Your first thought may be that your cat has gained a bit of weight, but a cat’s hanging belly can also be indicative of other health-related issues.
rest assured, all cats have an abdominal flap, called the primordial bursa, that swings from side to side when they walk. But what is a cat’s primordial pouch and why do they have it?
what is a cat’s primordial pouch?
Believe it or not, the primordial pouch is an important part of your cat’s biological makeup. As the name implies, the pouch exists at the earliest stage of a cat’s development and is a fundamental part of its body structure. cats are born with this drooping belly and all cats, both male and female, have primordial pouches. some bags are more prominent than others. even non-domestic big cats have them!
The bursa is an abdominal flap across your belly made up of extra loose skin and some fatty tissue. it’s similar to the excess fur cats have on their necks, called “dander”, which is where mother cats pick up their kittens with their teeth.
Depending on your cat’s breed, size and genetic makeup, this belly flap may be prominent or discreet. The pouch on the sleek Sphynx is more evident than on a Maine Coon, for example, because of the lack of fur to cover it up. Some breeds are celebrated by “cat fancier” (cat breed registry) organizations for having a low-hanging belly. One of these breeds is the Pixiebob, a fun-loving domestic kitty whose prominent primordial pouch is listed as a desirable feature by The International Cat Association.
why do cats have a primordial pouch?
Now that you have a better understanding of a cat’s primordial pouch, let’s take a look at why they have it. A cat’s sagging tummy serves your feline friend in several ways:
- protection: the loose skin of the bag does more than sway from side to side; Protects your cat’s vital organs, including the liver. Whether it’s two house cats fighting or two tigers fighting on the savannah, cats can and do become aggressive. Cats are kickers, as you see when your feline friend performs the rabbit kick on a catnip toy (or on your hands, arms, and feet). when the claws and teeth come out, the primal pouch is an extra layer of armor to prevent serious injury.
- Flexibility: Being the talented acrobats that they are, cats also benefit from excess fur when escaping from predators. cats have incredibly powerful hind legs, and the belly flap extends their bodies, allowing them to wriggle, wiggle, and leap high into the air. this also comes in handy when they jump on kitchen counters.
- Food Storage: As Pennsylvania Animal Advocate SPCA Carol Erickson says, Similar to when humans wear baggy pants when they eat too much, the elasticity of a primordial pouch also allows a cat’s abdomen to to expand for food storage. this becomes especially helpful for feral cats because they tend to eat one large meal per day, but it’s helpful for domestic cats as well. think of it like your cat’s favorite pair of leggings or sweatpants.
what causes a hanging cat tummy?
For cats with primordial pouches that are more prominent, other factors may be at play. this is what may be causing a more protruding cat belly.
Often, cat owners mistake the primordial pouch for a food belly. And while this is true for big wild cats who eat, say, a whole gazelle for dinner instead of a quarter cup of cat kibble, an obese or overweight cat’s abdomen is greasy and doesn’t sway as much. freely as the bag.
An effective way to tell the difference between an overweight cat belly and a primary pouch is to assess your cat’s body condition. International Cat Care explains that in an overweight or obese cat, you can’t easily feel its ribs or other bony areas due to a “thick layer of fat.” A primordial bursa doesn’t have this layer of fat (even the skinniest cat has a bursa), and you can probably feel your cat’s ribs and joints by touching her abdomen. Your vet will do an evaluation during your cat’s wellness checks and will help determine if your kitty is overweight or not.
Because obesity in cats has become a worldwide concern, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your cat’s diet and energy level. To help your furry friend avoid weight gain and maintain a healthy size, serve him high-quality cat food and keep him busy and active.
pregnancy, sterilization and castration
If your cat is roaming outside and is not spayed, there is a chance that her sagging tummy is indicative of pregnancy. in a pregnant cat, the distended belly appears around the fifth week. if you suspect pregnancy, avoid touching your cat’s tummy as it can harm the babies. pregnancy can and should be confirmed with a visit to the vet.
If your cat is spayed or neutered, she may gain weight after surgery, say experts at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. These procedures do not affect the primary pouch, but hormonal fluctuations after these procedures can lead to overeating and, in turn, weight gain in the tummy. as tufts recommends, discuss a new feeding plan with your vet and, if you have young pets, be aware of a kitten’s special nutritional requirements.
Another reason for belly expansion is due to another biological effect cats share with their humans: the loss of skin elasticity with age. excess skin on the abdominal flap may sag further, which is why a primordial pouch is more prominent in older cats. Your cat’s metabolism slows as she ages (another trait they have in common with pet owners), making it more difficult to lose weight, so it’s even more important to prevent weight gain before you let it happen talk to your vet about switching your cat to a cat food formulated for older cats starting at age seven.
when to call the vet
As your cat ages, her abdomen can be a useful indicator of health problems. if you feel lumps in the pouch, for example, and your cat is not pregnant, make an appointment with your vet. A cat can develop mammary cancer, which will present as lumps in her abdominal area, but not all lumps are cancerous, emphasizes the Pet Health Network. some cats develop benign fatty tumors called lipomas which are somewhat rare but do occur. you and your vet should regularly observe your cat’s pouch so that if anything unusual appears, it can be treated immediately.
Make sure you’re on top of your cat’s health and well-being, and take comfort in the knowledge that it’s normal for your cat’s primary pouch to move more with each passing year. When it comes to the question of what is a cat’s primordial pouch, talk to your vet to learn more about the signs of any other health factors.