An Egyptian Mau cat lying down, exposing its primordial pouch.

What Is a Primordial Pouch?

Some cat owners are perplexed to see their healthy, active pets develop a hanging belly. Are these felines snacking in secret or suffering from some mysterious affliction?

No, there’s likely no reason to call the vet or put your kitty on a new, more restrictive diet. That furry paunch isn’t the result of excess skin or abominable fat, but a layer of flesh known as the primordial pouch. It’s a vestigial body part, evidence of your cat’s wild lineage, and all felines big and small have one.

What Is a Primordial Pouch?

The primordial pouch is a sagging layer of skin that runs alongside the entirety of a cat’s underside. Pouches typically become more obvious in adulthood. All cats have one, though the size and visibility will vary from animal to animal.

While sometimes difficult to spot on stationary cats, primordial pouches typically become more obvious when cats walk, jump, and run. If your cat’s pouch is prominent, you’ll probably notice it bouncing and swinging about in rhythm with their movements. Primordial pouches will also likely stick out on slimmer cats more than they do on cats who are carrying around a little extra weight.

Why Do Cats Have Primordial Pouches?

Experts have offered a number of theories to explain these ubiquitous abdominal bulges. One possible explanation is that the extra flap of skin helps protect cats’ vulnerable visceral organs from injury. Another theory posits that the extra abdominal surface area helps cats to stretch farther and run faster, both virtues out in the wild. It’s also possible that the primordial pouch provided the domestic cat’s wild ancestors with extra space to store food after gorging themselves on large meals. After all, these cats didn’t have doting pet parents to provide bowls of food.

Breeds with Notable Primordial Pouches

From mighty jungle cats to pampered domestic pets, every type of feline has a primordial pouch of some sort. These breeds are often notable for their especially prominent examples.

Egyptian Mau

This beautiful spotted cat is notable for its repeated appearances in ancient Egyptian art. Today, it’s still known for its remarkable agility and acrobatic skills. The breed can run as fast as 30 miles per hour and their primordial pouch may help them reach that impressive speed.


Another eye-catching spotted cat, the Bengal’s tiger-like coat and prominent primordial pouch both reflect its unique parentage. The breed was created by crossing Egyptian Maus, Abyssinians, and other domestic cats with the wild Asian Leopard Cat.

Japanese Bobtail

Japanese Bobtails are the breed traditionally depicted in maneki-neko (“beckoning cat”) figurines. In addition to short, stubby tails, the cats are notable for slim builds that make their primordial pouches really stick out.

Is Your Cat Overweight?

A cat with a prominent pouch is often easily distinguishable from an overweight or obese one. First, a primordial belly generally hangs lower and swings more freely than a rotund one. An overweight cat’s abdomen will feel firm and hard in comparison to a pouch. You can also assess your cat’s weight by feeling for their ribs and looking at their bodies from above. Ribs should be easily detectable under the flesh, rather than obscured by a layer of fat. Viewed from above, cats will have a clearly visible waistline if they’re at a healthy weight. Overweight cats, on the other hand, are generally rounder and underweight cats will look exceedingly bony. Your veterinarian can help you develop a diet and exercise plan that’s appropriate for your cat’s health, activity level, and unique nutritional needs.