Why Does My Cat Have a Hanging Belly?

Why Does My Cat Have a Hanging Belly

If the thing hanging from your pet’s stomach looks flabby, you are probably looking at your cat’s primordial pouch.

What is a primordial pouch?

The primordial pouch, sometimes called the spay sway, is a flap of skin. Most cats have it although it is more noticeable in breeds like the Bengal, Mau, and Pixie Bob. In fact, the presence of a prominent primordial pouch is a requirement in some breeds. The pouch is also more prominent in male cats compared to female cats.

The flap is located on a cat’s belly and can jiggle from side to side when he walks. And it is not just domestic cats that have primordial pouches. Even big cats like mountain lions and cheetahs are known for having this skin flap.

The presence does not have anything to do with your cat’s body shape or weight. Even fit and slim cats can have primordial pouches.

Why do cats have primordial pouches?

Initially, it was believed that the primordial pouch was formed by the stretching of a cat’s skin after gaining weight. However, that theory has been debunked. To date, scientists have not yet arrived at a conclusive answer to that question. They do, however, offer a few possible explanations about the existence of this skin flap on your pet.

Protection for vital organs

Many cats dislike exposing and getting their bellies rubbed. Instinctively, they know that their stomachs are vulnerable because these house the most important organs in their bodies. A well-placed blow to the area can have fatal consequences.

One theory suggests that cats have primordial pouches that provide an extra layer of protection for the vulnerable feline stomach.

Optimize movement

Observe your cat while he runs and jumps. Did you notice that his body seems to stretch? It has been suggested that the primordial pouch aids in a cat’s movement by accommodating the stretching of a cat’s limbs. 

Without the primordial pouch, your cat might not be able to achieve peak speeds. Or if he does, the movement might be too painful.

Felines have looser skins compared to canines. Having looser skin allows cats to navigate tight spots and situations by enabling them to maneuver their bodies with unparalleled flexibility.

Food storage

Some experts believe that the primordial pouch can expand to store food.

Although cats are capable hunters, their success rate is not high. In the wild, cats do not eat regularly. This is why they will eat as much as they can after a successful hunt and store the excess calories in their bodies. And one of the areas that cats can store food is in their primordial pouches.

The ability to store food inside their bodies allows felines to survive when there is little to no food available.

Is a hanging belly a sign that your cat is obese?

The presence of the primordial flap is not an indicator that your pet has put on weight. Again, most cats, including the skinny ones, have primordial pouches.

If so, how do you know if your cat is obese?

First, the primordial pouch is a loose skin flap. You will see it jiggle as your cat walks. Second, the skin flap is located close to the rear part of the belly. In contrast, an obese cat’s belly will look round and feels firm. 

One quick and easy test you can use to confirm if your cat is obese or not is to run your hands and fingers over your pet’s rib cage. If your cat is at a healthy weight, you will feel his ribs even with the slightest pressure. On the other hand, if you need to press a bit harder to feel your cat’s ribs, it is likely that he is carrying excess weight. If you cannot feel the ribs, it means that your cat is obese.

Another way to confirm if your cat is obese is to look at his body while you are standing over him. If your cat is at a healthy weight, you should see his body taper at his waist. But if his belly seems to protrude at the sides, it indicates that your cat is carrying extra weight.

The best way to confirm if your cat is at his ideal weight or not is to consult your veterinarian.

How your cat’s stomach should feel

A healthy cat’s stomach should feel soft to the touch. On the other hand, if his belly feels hard or distended and your cat feels pain or discomfort when touched in this area, it might be an indicator that your cat is dealing with a disorder.

1. Constipation

If your cat’s belly feels firm and you notice signs of discomfort in your pet, it is likely that he is constipated. And the longer your cat goes on without defecating, his stool can become impacted while his colon might not function normally.

2. Peritonitis

Peritonitis is a condition where the tissues become inflamed, leading to the buildup of fluids in the abdominal cavity. The condition can be caused by bacterial infections, abscesses, poisoning, or tumors. 

3. Urinary blockage

Male cats are susceptible to urethral obstructions due to the size of their urethra. A urethral blockage occurs when crystals form in the urethra. This can lead to the engorgement of the bladder.

A urinary blockage is a critical disorder that can cause death in cats. Left unchecked, it can lead to the release of harmful toxins inside the affected cat’s body and bladder rupture.

4. Pregnancy

If you have an intact queen that you allow to go outside, your cat might be pregnant. At around three to four weeks of pregnancy, the vet can feel the fetuses inside your pet’s belly.

The primordial pouch is no cause for concern

The presence of this skin flap is nothing to worry about. The primordial pouch becomes more noticeable once a cat reaches maturity. Just think of the skin flap as a sign that your pet has grown.

If you are worried, check your pet’s tummy, if he allows it. If he is healthy, his stomach should feel soft. If his belly feels firm or hard and he shows signs of discomfort, visit the vet to rule out health issues your cat might be suffering from.

Image: istockphoto.com / andreaskrappweis