Cat lovers will be well aware of that adorable little paunch most cats carry below their waists. If you’ve ever seen a cat run, you’ll know exactly what I mean. While most of us dismiss it as a sign that our cats are maybe carrying a few too many pounds (after all, a wobbly midriff is one of the first signs of overindulgence in ourselves), there’s actually a very different reason behind their podgy tums. If you’ve ever seen a lion at large (or even just watched one doing its King of the Jungle thing on TV), you may have noticed that even these strong, lithesome creatures can sometimes be packing a bit of pot. While it could be a case they’ve simply been partaking off a few too many gazelles than is good for them, more often than not it’s simply a result of what scientists call a primordial pouch. And if lions can get it, then so too can their domesticated (and fortunately, rather smaller and less toothsome) counterparts.
The Primordial Pouch
As The Nest points out, anyone who’s ever seen two cats in a fight may have noticed they often instinctively kick out at each other’s stomachs, using their hind feet like bunnies. This isn’t simply a coincidence: what they’re actually doing by attacking the belly of their sparring partner is tapping into their killer instincts (yep, they may look cute, but underneath that adorable exterior is an out-and-out killer). Like us, cats have developed a layer of belly fat to protect their internal organs from attack (as much from each other as their predators). The result is a hanging flap of skin that protects their bellies, keeps their viscera safe from harm, and let’s face it, looks as cute as a button (although woe betides anyone that tries to give a little rub).
Fat Gain After Spaying
Some people believe that spaying or neutering a cat can cause a saggy belly. While it’s a common enough occurrence for cats to develop a few fatty pads around the site of the incision, or even for their metabolisms to slow down (which, as you probably know, can lead to a tendency to plump up even if calorie intake is still at normal levels), the primordial pouch is entirely normal, and while spaying and neutering can cause it to hang slightly lower than it would naturally, it’s nothing to be concerned about.
The primordial pouch may add an extra layer of cuteness to your cat, but it actually serves a few very practical purposes as well (and not just when it comes to fighting). As Cuteness explains, the pouch allows a cat to stretch more easily, and enjoy greater freedom of movement when it comes to things like jumping, twisting, running and walking. Slightly less adorably, it also allows big old jungle cats the opportunity to gorge themselves on their kill knowing their belly will stretch nicely to accommodate all those meaty mouthfuls. It’s also a useful place to store fat reserves for those days when food might be scarce on the ground.
The Breeds with The Most
Some breeds are naturally more inclined to develop bigger primordial pouches than others. For some types, it’s even considered a desirable breed standard… woe betides any of the below breeds that turn up at a cat show without a saggy belly in tow.
- The Bengal – A handsome cat that comes from cross-breeding Asian leopard cats with domestic breeds, the Bengal is characterized by its distinctive rosette markings (which, unsurprisingly given their lineage, bears a marked similarity to those displayed on the coats of leopards and jaguars) and, you guessed it, a fabulously floppy belly.
- The Egyptian Mau – This spotted breed may look like a sleek leopard, but there’s nothing elegant about its dangling tum.
- The Pixie Bob – With its spotted coat and short tail, the pixie bob is a gloriously wild-looking creature, all the way down to its swaying undercarriage.
Don’t Pet the Pouch
When a cat reclines next to you with its fleshy tummy on proud display, who could resist the urge to give it a little stroke? However, beware…while cats will generally expose their primordial pouches only when they’re fully relaxed and content, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be happy for you to rub it. Like dogs, cats will often lie on their backs and display their bellies to signal submissiveness. Unlike dogs, however, cats are contrary cusses that can go from a ball of purring fluff one moment to a seething mess of claws and teeth the next. As Cuteness notes, cats are, at heart, little psychopaths (in the nicest possible sense of course, even if they do manage to kill 2.4 billion and 12.3 billion mammals each year in the US alone), and given that their primordial pouches are there to serve a very basic and very vital purpose, it’s unlikely they’ll want you getting too intimate with it.