Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Poop?
And Should They?
February 9, 2022
If you are the lucky owner of some adorable guinea pigs, you may have run into some weird behavior. You may have seen your piggies reaching for their bottom, picking up what looks like feces, happily popping it in their mouth, and munching away.
Contrary to a common misbelief, guinea pigs do not eat their poop to get more vitamins.
– Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Rest assured, your guinea pigs are not eating their feces because they are hungry or you haven’t fed them. Although guinea pigs are known for their voracious appetites and wheeking desperately at the slightest creak of the fridge door, eating their poop has nothing to do with their endless craving for more food.
Actually, all guinea pigs eat their poop many times a day. And although we humans may find it disgusting, the behavior is quite normal.
But what you may not know is that contrary to a common misbelief, guinea pigs do not eat their poop to get more vitamins.
So, if it’s not for nutrients, why do guinea pigs eat their poop? Let’s find out.
Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Own Poop?
Yes, guinea pigs eat their own poop. This behavior actually has a name, and it’s called coprophagy.
Although you may find it off-putting, it’s completely safe and normal behavior for cavies and should never be prevented. The truth is that eating their poop helps them avoid health problems like rectal impactions and weight loss.
Even though guinea pigs eat their poop numerous times each day, owners may not notice this behavior as piggies often just reach for their backend and eat the poop right when it’s coming out. Therefore, it may sometimes come as a surprise that what you thought was just your pet cleaning their backside was actually catching a piece of poop and popping it in their mouth.
Even if it sounds quite gross, it’s just a way for guinea pigs to digest their food twice to get all the benefits from it.
So, what are these benefits, and why do guinea pigs eat their own fecal matter?
Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Own Poop?
Actually, there is a common misbelief that guinea pigs produce two types of poops:
- Firstly, they have been thought to produce the normal dark and hard droppings you see all around the cage. This has been thought to be waste matter that is formed by material their body doesn’t need.
- Secondly, it has also been believed guinea pigs produce another type of droppings, which are softer and less dark in color. This type of feces has been accepted as cecal pellets, also known as cecotropes or caecals, and it has been thought to be the type of poop your guinea pigs eat. Cecal pellets are packed with vitamins and nutrients, and for many animals, they are an essential part of their diet.
Veterinarian Dr. Edele Grey explains, that according to recent studies, guinea pigs are not considered cecotropic, meaning they do not produce cecal pellets and use them to supplement their diet. However, they are coprophagic, which means they do eat their poop.
The fecal pellets that pigs are seen to eat directly from the rectum are just fresh poop and don’t come directly from the cecum (thus they’re not cecotropes).
But if it’s not for the nutrients, why would guinea pigs want to eat their own poop?
So why do guinea pigs eat their feces?
Although the habit of eating their poo may seem disgusting to you, it actually has many benefits:
1. Nutritional value
Guinea pigs, just like rabbits, eat mostly hay or grass. However, rabbits are cecotropic, meaning they eat their own cecal pellets to extract more nutrients like Vitamin B from the food they have eaten.
For a long time, it was thought that guinea pigs produce cecotropes as well and eat them for their nutritional value.
Hay is a very fibrous food it is not easily digested meaning animals may not be able to absorb all the needed fiber, protein, and nutrients from their food the first time around. By eating their poop, guinea pigs were believed to be able to get much-needed nutrients such as Vitamins B, C, and K.
However, nowadays, guinea pigs are not considered cecotropic which means they do not need to eat their poop for its nutritional value.
It is not yet fully understood why guinea pigs engage in coprophagy and whether there are nutritional reasons for it, says DVM Edele Grey. However, coprophagy may have nutritional benefits, so it is important to let your guinea pig eat its poop.
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2. Poop contains useful bacteria, which help keep up a healthy intestinal biome.
Often feces from a healthy guinea pig can help a sick guinea pig with digestive issues restore its gut flora. Sometimes, you may even see a sick guinea pig eating them straight from another piggy’s backend.
Also, if you have a guinea pig that has tummy trouble or has been treated with antibiotics, it can be a good idea to feed them some of their friend’s poop to help them restore the good bacteria in their digestive system. The fecal pellet can even be mixed with warm water to make a mixture that can be syringe fed to a sick guinea pig.
3. Helps prevent rectal impaction
Guinea pigs are prone to rectal impaction, and eating their poop straight from their rectum may help them prevent it.
Fecal impaction is more common for older male guinea pigs over the age of 2-3 years than in female guinea pigs. It is not exactly clear why this is, but it is suspected to result from weakened anal muscles which make it difficult for the boar to expel fecal pellets. The feces gets trapped in the perineal sac causing an impaction that prevents normal digestion and passing of poop.
4. Helps prevent weight loss
Guinea pigs are often prone to weight gain, but they may also lose weight for no apparent reason. Coprophagy has also been shown to prevent unwanted weight loss in guinea pigs, so again, it is beneficial and very normal.
As you can see, eating fecal pellets has many benefits. Still, many owners are worried about their pets being harmed by eating their poop. So, is it normal or something that should be prevented?
Is It Normal for Guinea Pigs to Eat Their Poop?
Yes, it is normal for guinea pigs to eat their poop. And not just normal but an essential part of keeping up your piggy’s health. Although the reasons for coprophagy have not yet been studied thoroughly, it is clear that eating their own poop is important for guinea pigs to stay healthy.
Although you may not have noticed the behavior, it can happen 150-200 times a day! So rest assured, it is quite normal.
The behavior is not only normal, but it is also healthy, and you should not inhibit the behavior. Keeping your guinea pig from eating their poop may lead to health issues that are yet to be studied, so just let your guinea pig engage in this perfectly normal piggy behavior.
All guinea pigs eat their poop, and if your guinea pig does not, it could mean they have health issues and may need to be checked by the vet. Not eating their poo may lead to health complications and even death.
It has been believed that guinea pigs produce both fecal pellets and cecotropes, but as this is not considered to be true anymore, you can not determine whether your piggy is eating its feces just by checking if there are cecal pellets lying around in the cage.
– Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
You may not notice your piggy eating its poop, as often they just seem to be cleaning their backend when they are really eating the feces straight out of their bottom. Yet, most guinea pigs eat their droppings more than 150 times a day do it by reaching for the fecal pellet as it exits the rectum.
It has been believed that guinea pigs produce both fecal pellets and cecotropes, but as this is not considered to be true anymore, you can not determine whether your piggy is eating its feces just by checking if cecal pellets are lying around in the cage.
Not eating their poop can be a problem, especially for older guinea pigs, as they may not be able to reach their behind. In addition, senior cavies are prone to weight loss, so being able to eat their fecal pellet is important to protect their health.
Although all the benefits of coprophagy in guinea pigs have not been discovered, it is clear that this behavior is normal and beneficial. Although it may be difficult to determine whether your piggy is eating its poop if you notice a change in its behavior and suspect it has something to do with its digestion, it is always recommended to visit a vet.
Is It Good for Guinea Pigs to Eat Their Poop?
Yes, it is good for guinea pigs to eat their poop. By eating their feces, they are able to absorb more nutrients, which keeps them healthy. It is definitely good for your guinea pig to eat their feces, so this behavior should never be discouraged or prevented.
There are even studies showing that guinea pigs suffering from an illness may eat fecal pellets from healthy guinea pigs, which helps them recover.
The truth is, you should be more worried if your guinea pig is not eating their poop because it could lead to health problems.
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Guinea Pig Eating Poop – The Bottom Line
Eating their poop is completely normal behavior for guinea pigs and can even be considered vital for their health.
And to be clear, although it has been believed it’s not actually poop but cecal pellets, recent studies show that guinea pigs do not produce cecotropes and it is, in fact, poop.
Although the reasons for coprophagy in guinea pigs are not yet fully understood, guinea pigs do eat their poop and it’s perfectly normal.
Even if you are thinking YUCK! it is all normal and healthy for your guinea pig to eat their poop. However, it may have you second-guessing those kisses you dole out to your piggies!
For many years it was thought that guinea pigs produced cecal pellets, also called cecotropes, but that’s no longer believed to be true. Guinea pigs practice coprophagia and eat their fecal pellets directly from their rectum multiple times per day.
We don’t fully understand the nutritional reasons behind this practice. Rabbits eat their cecotropes to extract more nutrients, including B vitamins, from their food, but as piggies don’t do this, they need 7 of the 10 B vitamins to be provided directly from their food.
– Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your pet’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.