What A Kangaroo Pouch Is Really Like

Kangaroos are famous for a lot of things. They can jump long distances and run as fast as 40 miles per hour, and they're one of the most recognizable parts of Australia's environment. Kangaroos are also known for how they raise their young — in a pouch on the mother's abdomen, where the baby kangaroo, called a joey, can safely grow and hide from danger. But what's it actually like for the joey inside?

Joeys go into the pouch of their mothers almost immediately after they're born, according to Live Science. While inside, they have access to milk through four special ducts to help them stay healthy. The inside of the pouch isn't furry, Live Science reports, but the skin of the mother kangaroo is still soft.

The pouch will keep them warm until they're developed enough to get out and explore the world on their own two legs (via Live Science). That happens once the joey is about 8 months old, according to Kangaroo Footprints, although it may venture out a little bit before then. It will still return to the mother's pouch regularly until it's weaned at about 10 to 12 months old (per Live Science).

How the mother keeps the pouch comfortable

Kangaroos only birth one joey at a time, according to Live Science. But their muscles allow the pouch to expand and contract to make space, according to Insider, which helps to manage a joey at all stages. When they're first born, joeys are called jellybeans due to their size, Insider reports, but by the time they leave the pouch, they're closer to the size of an adult cat.

The expandable pouch is also helpful when they have to tuck in two babies who were born a few months apart. Insider reports the mother even produces different milks simultaneously to meet the needs of multiple joeys at different development stages.

But the mother also needs to keep the space clean. The joey stays inside constantly for the first few months, and even when it's older, it will drag in dirt and mess from the outside. The mother kangaroo must clean the pouch out during those months, according to Live Science, even when the baby is still inside. She does that by licking into the pouch to clear out things like dirt and urine.