Guinea Pigs Eating Poop: Why They Do It and What It Means

Believe it or not, several animal species regularly eat some of their own poop. Guinea pigs are among a long list of animals, which include rabbits, hamsters, and hedgehogs, that can occasionally be noticed eating poop directly from their bottoms. While that may sound appalling to humans, it is not only entirely normal but also necessary for cavy gut health.

Guinea pigs eat a type of poop that contains valuable nutrients. They are not the same as hard pellets that you find lying in the cage. The term for poop-eating is coprophagia. Sending partially digested food through the gut a second time unlocks extra vitamins and nutrients.

You may have spotted your piggy eating bits of poop directly from its bottom. Don’t worry; it isn’t starving, it isn’t doing anything gross, and it’s not eating random poop that it finds lying around. Let’s learn more about this interesting behavior and discover why guinea pigs eat their poop.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Poop?

Coprophagy is the term for eating poop, and cavies are not the only animals that do this. Hindgut herbivores like rabbits and beavers also use this behavior to extract every bit of goodness from their food.

Guinea pigs are small herbivores, and their food is highly fibrous. Since their gut doesn’t always do the best job of completely breaking down what they consume, nature devised a clever solution. Poop containing valuable nutrients gets another round through their digestive tracts.

In some ways, the process of consuming food and sending it through the digestive tract twice can be compared to how some ruminants like cows chew their cud. Instead of pooping out their partially digested food like guinea pigs, they bring up previously swallowed portions from a first stomach, chew and swallow it a second time.

Although it may give you an uneasy feeling seeing your pet piggy scoot down and gobble down a fecal pellet from its bottom, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your piggy knows the difference between nutrient-rich poop and regular dry poop that you clean out of the cage. It is important to keep its environment clean as it will consume the poops it needs directly from its bottom and doesn’t need the depleted ones lying around.
  • The poop it eats has twice the protein and half the amount of fiber as regular poop.
  • Reingested poop pellets contain high levels of vitamins K and B.
  • Preventing your piggy from consuming its poop can make it sick. Consuming partially digested poop that still contains nutrients is a vital natural process that maintains good gut health and makes valuable nutrients available that could not be absorbed in their first pass.

Do Guinea Pigs Produce Cecotropes?

The poop-eating ways of rabbits is slightly different from guinea pigs. They have distinct areas in their gut that produce very different-looking poop specifically intended to be eaten, called cecotropes.

There is a lot of confusion regarding the softer stool produced by guinea pigs, and they are often also referred to as cecotropes, although it is not exactly the same. It is, however, safe to say that the nutrient-rich poop eaten by piggies is soft and often coated in a green-colored mucus, so it is not the same as their regular poops.

What Happens If My Guinea Pigs Eat Their Poop?

It is perfectly natural and necessary for cavies to consume a special variety of their own poop. Some food needs a second round through their digestive tract to be fully digested, so it is pooped out as soft, slightly green-coated stools.

Eating their soft first-round poops reduces waste and provides piggies with a rich source of protein and some essential vitamins they may have missed if they flushed these special poops away. There is no need to be concerned if you see your guinea pigs eating their poop. They are not sick; in fact, it is a sign of good health.

How Often Do Guinea Pigs Poop?

Guinea pigs pee and poop a lot, and cavy owners are often amazed at how many brown, oval specks their pets produce each day. Fortunately, piggy poop doesn’t smell like most animals, and foul-smelling or discolored poop can indicate a health issue.

A healthy cavy can produce up to 100 poops each day. The number decreases as they age, but even then, they can average an impressive 50 to 70 tiny pellets. Since they poop frequently, piggies aren’t fussy about where they go. Luckily the stools have a firm, solid texture, so they aren’t easily squished into carpets or clothing.

Since guinea pigs are coprophagic, they eat some of their poop as part of the digestive process. The stools they consume are slightly different from typical poop, and you may not see it since this soft, nutrient-rich variety is frequently scooped up directly from their bottoms.

How Often Do You Clean Guinea Pig Poop?

Since cavies poop and pee often, owners should make spot-cleaning their cages part of their daily routine. Keeping their environment clean makes it more pleasant for the animals and prevents the possible spread of diseases.

While it is true that guinea pigs need to eat some of their poop to maintain good gut health, the type of stools that benefit them is not the standard oval, run-of-the-mill variety that you will find scattered throughout the cage. You can confidently clean up all discarded piggy poop lying about as often as possible to keep things hygienic.

How Do You Clean Up Guinea Pig Poop?

Cavy cages must be thoroughly cleaned at least once a week. That includes changing all the bedding and sanitizing the base, toys, accessories, food bowls, and drinkers.

Piggy poop and wet spots should be spot-cleaned daily. Healthy piggy poop isn’t smelly and retains its shape well, which makes collecting it much more manageable. Some methods to clean guinea pig poop include:

  • Use a small handheld vacuum.
  • Wear rubber gloves and pick it up.
  • You can shake them out over a dustbin if you use fleece liners or bathmats.
  • Sweep it up using a small hand broom and dustpan.

Conclusion

Guinea pigs cannot fully digest fiber-rich plant material, so by eating special wet poops, partially digested food gets a second pass through their systems. The stools they eat differ from the regular dry variety, which should be removed from the cage. Coprophagy is entirely normal cavy behavior, and animals that are prevented from eating their nutrient-rich poops can become malnourished.