From kittens to adults, female and male, numerous cats carry a noticeable” pouch” situated between their hind legs, extending to and over their abdominal area. This can give the impression of a large belly which it is not.
Let us first look at the reasons cats have a pouch; to do this we need to go back down the centuries, to the time when cats truly did “walk alone”. When we say walk alone, what we really mean is that all of their feral traits were very firmly in place, for the feline’s survival depended upon that very fact.
Amongst the other feral traits that cats are in possession of, such as an awesome awareness of things that others cannot see or hear, incredible eyesight, hearing, and reflexes second to none, numerous cats have this pouch.
So what is this pouch? The physical component of the pouch is basically fat content contained within a sack of skin.
What purpose does the pouch serve? The pouch is basically a primordial tool which many centuries ago gave the cats who were in possession of it a huge advantage over those who did not have it.
Why you may ask? Simply as follows: the pouch by sheer dint of the fact that it stretches along the length of the cat’s underbelly, covers and therefore protects their internal organs when under potential attack, as well as protecting them from said attack by enabling them to run faster when necessary, as the pouch is of an elastic consistency and stretches as and when needed, giving the cats who possess the pouch a longer stride to escape from the potential danger threatening them. In addition it gives them the added protection if they do need to fight of having the pouch between their delicate organ containing underbelly, and the vicious claws of the hind legs of an attacking cat. Add to the fact that the pouch contains a store of fat, which in dire circumstances within which there is a shortage of food, gives the pouched cats the resources to live and survive where those without the pouch may perish. For example, If a large kill had been made during hunting, extra food (in the form of fat) could be stored in the pouch in order to sustain the cat until the next feed, which may be some time away.
Why then you ask do all cats not have a pouch? My theory is this; it is undoubtedly a specific gene pool which produces the pouch carrying cats. It is not exclusive to age, colour or gender. Kittens of both sexes are born with pouches (it runs in litters). Both male and female cats can develop a pouch at any age, whilst some cats never develop it.
My belief is that this is a strong “warrior gene” passed down through the genetic lines within the “survival of the fittest” concept. Those who carry this gene,possess the courage, determination and other qualities above and beyond what may in modern times be expected of a cat. These cats are the cream of the cream and will in turn breed this quality into their offspring. This for sure is just the kind of cat we all would ideally like within our lives; a cat that is not only willing, but capable, of going that extra mile, whichever form that may take.
It is interesting to note that the “big cats” i.e. Tigers, Jaguars etc, do still have the pouch, which of course makes perfect sense, as they are currently living within an environment which of necessity calls for “the survival of the fittest”, unlike most modern domestic cats, although within the breed standards of some modern pedigree cats, such as the Bengal, the pouch is deemed a necessary attribute to carry, though it may simply be a very small pouch, barely noticeable, but included as part of the breed standard of these particular breeds.
This is not to say that cats with little or none of the pouch carrying warrior gene do not have other great qualities, for they surely do; this article encompasses only the historical genetic angle of the primordial pouch in the feline.
If you do have a cat with a discernibly large pouch, a point to watch for is that they do not become overweight by storing food unnecessarily within their pouch, for the gene still makes their brain deem this necessary!