5 reasons why your cat might have a saggy belly

I am proud to say that my cat has a beautiful saggy belly which gyrates from side to side when he walks as it makes contact with his hind legs. For me, it makes him look like a true wild cat when I see him walking across the lawn or patio. And my cat is a slender boy. He is fighting fit and does not have an ounce of extra weight on him. So, I know that his saggy belly is entirely normal and a part of the domestic cat’s anatomy. Importantly, I believe that you don’t see it an awful lot in domestic cats. My cat is exceptional in this regard.

Gabs' belly flap or primordial pouch
Gabs’ belly flap or primordial pouch. Gif by MikeB
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And here is a still image of it:

Gab's belly flap or primordial pouch
Gab’s belly flap or primordial pouch. Image: his slave.

Although the Internet authors enthuse about this feature of domestic cat anatomy, which is referred to as the “primordial pouch” and which appears at about six months of age, it is hardly ever referred to in reference books on domestic cats. I guess it is just something which is not important enough to be discussed by experts. And for that reason, a while ago, I discussed an alternative reason for its existence. I said that is a vestigial part of the anatomy serving no real purpose which is indicated by its name i.e. ‘primordial’ (see link below). On this page I present the conventional view but I am not 100% convinced that they are wholly correct.

Domestic cat belly flap aka primordial pouch
Domestic cat belly flap aka primordial pouch. Image (modified by MikeB) by 9436196 from Pixabay

RELATED: Challenging the theories about the cat’s primordial pouch or belly flap

Challenging the theory on the reason for the existence of the domestic cat's primordial pouch
Challenging the theory on the reason for the existence of the domestic cat’s primordial pouch. Photos top left and bottom: copyright Helmi Flick.

However, some cat caregivers can become a little concerned about it and think that it is an indication that there cat is overweight. It has nothing to do with being overweight, although their cat might be overweight. It’s a loose area of skin with subcutaneous fat and sometimes the fur can be a bit longer there, which appears to serve the purpose of allowing the cat to extend their body further when running fast or jumping and to protect their stomachs if it is being raked by the hind legs of a tomcat invading their territory.

The extent of a domestic cat’s belly flap depends on their age, their gender and their individual anatomical characteristics. You see a whole range of sizes. In some cats it seems to be barely noticeable or entirely absent but, as mentioned, on my cat it is noticeable.

The “primordial pouch” has nothing to do with pregnancy either. In pregnancy the abdomen bulges sideways and is quite firm whereas the primordial pouch is floppy and hanging from the belly.

Another suggested reason for its existence is that, as it is made of fat and skin, it is a reservoir of energy for lean times. Of course, this doesn’t happen to a well-cared for domestic cat but in the wild they might need it.

It is probably fair to say, however, that if a cat is overweight, they may indeed have a saggy belly but it won’t be a primordial pouch, it’ll just be excess fat down the length of the abdomen.

The primordial pouch is very specifically located just in front of the hind legs which is why it can wobble from side to side if sufficiently large when a cat walks. The hind legs push it from side to side.

Finally, in old age there is tendency to have a bit of a belly as is the case with male humans.

Below are some more articles on cat anatomy.

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