By DAN KROSSE
AS A RELATIVELY NEW CAT OWNER, I inherited what I thought might be a fat cat. My concern was the swaying fat pouch under her belly that moves back and forth as she leads me to her food bowl each morning. But it turns out Ripple is actually pretty healthy.
That Sway is OK
“Belly flap,” “spay sway,” “apron,” “fat pouch,” “belly bag” – you know what I’m talking about — that extra fat flap that jiggles and jangles as our cats run and play.
Its actual name is the “primordial pouch,” and just about every cat has one. But why?
“We once thought it was skin stretching out while a cat was gaining weight,” said Charleston Animal Society Senior Director of Veterinary Care Dr. Lucy Fuller. “But we now know that is not the case.”
As Dr. Fuller will tell you, different experts have different explanations for the primordial pouch – but three general theories exist:
1. The primordial pouch protects vital organs during cat fights.
2. The primordial pouch allows cats to be more flexible when running and jumping.
3. The primordial pouch gives cats room to store some extra food when they overeat. Across the boards, experts do agree that the primordial pouch has nothing to do with being spayed or neutered, despite the nickname “spay sway” for the pouch. In fact, different species have similar “fatty” areas like the primordial pouch. “Female rabbits have a dewlap under the chin. Cows store fat in their brisket area,” Dr. Fuller said.
All of these devices are likely products of evolution. The dewlap in the rabbit occurs in female rabbits when they are old enough to reproduce. Being under the chin, the rabbit can reach it to pull out fur to line her nest for the new babies.
But back to cats — is there a way to tell if your cat is a fatty, or whether he or she just has its belly bag going on?
“Gently run your hands down the side of your cat. If you can feel his or her ribs, and they are not protruding, then your cat is in ideal body condition,” said Dr. Fuller.
If your cat is obese, it will have a rounder belly and you won’t be able to feel his or her ribs with a light touch.
Obesity in cats is a serious challenge. A Cornell University study found one out of every four cats were heavy or obese.
If you’re staring at your cat right now and just can’t decide if her swing is an OK thing – or if she may be overweight—settle the debate and have your cat examined by your veterinarian. It’s never too late to start a healthy diet.