When your cat is fit, fierce, and strong, the last thing you’d expect is a saggy belly. They can soar over the couch, sprint faster than the dog, and climb the backyard tree like it was easy. You feed them the right food, give them plenty of exercise, and your vet says they’re the perfect weight. So what’s going on with that dang stomach pouch? It’s not like you expect your athletic cat to have six-pack abs, but their flabby tummy makes them look overweight.
Don’t worry, cat people. While your cat’s saggy belly might make them look unfit, it’s actually completely normal. That flabby stomach pouch is an important part of feline anatomy. It’s there for a reason, and it even has a fancy name.
The Primordial Pouch
You can keep calling that flabby part of your cat their saggy belly, but in technical terms, it’s their primordial pouch. Sounds a little more dignified, doesn’t it? All cats have a primordial pouch. It’s a layer of excess skin and fat that clings to the abdomen. It actually stretches across their whole underside, but it’s usually most noticeable near the back legs.
Your living room lion has a primordial pouch, and so do all actual lions. If you’ve ever seen big cats at a sanctuary, zoo, or on TV, you might have noticed it. Lions, tigers, puma, and jaguars are the definition of fierce and strong. And yet they have saggy bellies. It’s not because they eat too much, it’s because it’s part of the feline anatomy. And it serves a few important purposes.
A Common Misconception
Some people think that a cat’s saggy belly comes from spaying or neutering. And while spaying/neutering can sometimes result in a slower metabolism and a few fatty pockets, it has nothing to do with the primordial pouch. Both neutered and unneutered cats have this saggy belly. Fat cats, underweight cats, athletic cats, lazy cats, fancy purebred cats, and stray cats all have a primordial pouch. Sometimes it’s hard to see because of their long fur or extra weight, but it’s there.
The Reasons Behind a Cat’s Saggy Belly
Of course researchers can’t confirm exactly why cats have primordial pouches, but they have a few likely theories that are generally considered accurate.
A Layer of Protection
The majority of a cat’s vital organs are located in or around their belly. So when they get in a fight, that’s the area that needs the most protection. Have you ever seen two cats get into a real fight? There are a lot of “bunny kicks” that send sharp claws from powerful back legs right into an opponent’s soft underside. It’s easy for these kicks to cause abdominal injuries, but a saggy belly serves as a layer of protection. Those excess skin folds block sharp claws from getting to the important stuff.
Ease and Flexibility
During that bunny-kicking battle, a saggy belly also helps a cat escape from a predator or opponent. When their skin is loose, they’re harder to hold on to. At the same time, the primordial pouch allows cats to fully extend their bodies while running and jumping. Cats are extremely flexible, and that pouch of loose skin helps them stretch and move with ease.
Emergency Food Storage
In the wild, cats can go full days without eating a meal. And when they finally get their claws on some food, they need to take full advantage of it. Their abdominal folds can stretch to allow the stomach to expand after eating a big meal. Cats need that extra food to sustain them during the days when food is scarce.
Cats are built to be skilled predators and survivalists. Their saggy bellies are a big part of that, so don’t confuse the primordial pouch with excess weight. Even cats of a healthy weight have those extra skin flaps, and a diet won’t make it go away. If you’re not sure if your cat is overweight or just has a pronounced primordial pouch, talk to your vet.