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Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Poop? The Reason for This Behavior

Nicole Cosgrove

March 26, 2021

If you’ve owned guinea gigs for any lengthy period, chances are high that you’ve seen your guinea chewing on their own poop! This may seem unnatural and even disturbing, especially for a novice guinea pig owner, but don’t worry, the behavior is completely normal!

The truth is that the little pellet morsel that you see your guinea happily feasting on is technically not poop, although it may look like poop and even come from the same place as their poop. Confused? Don’t worry!

In this article, we look at the reason behind guineas eating their own poop, and hopefully, you’ll soon understand the practice better and why it is perfectly normal.

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Coprophagy

Guinea pigs actually excrete two different types of pellets, though both kinds are referred to by most of us simply as “poop.” One type of pellet is standard poop, the waste matter that their body no longer needs. The other pellet, however, is packed with nutrients that their body hadn’t absorbed. These are called cecotropes, and this process of animals eating their own feces is called coprophagy.

Animals like guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas, and rabbits cannot properly chew or digest the fibrous food that they primarily feed on, and the result is pellets that are still packed with vital vitamins and minerals that your guinea will need to eat again to benefit from. Chances are high that you’ll rarely see these cecotropes because guineas eat them quickly after passing them. They are typically softer and stickier than their usual poop pellets, and if you do see these around your guinea’s cage, chances are high that there is something wrong.

Cecotropes are softer and noticeably lighter in color, with a greenish or yellowish tinge to them, making them easy to distinguish from the harder, darker regular poops. They are rarely seen in healthy guineas because they eat them as soon as they are passed, sometimes over 100 times a day!

Nutritional benefits of coprophagy

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Image Credit: Pixabay

Because plant matter is not completely digested the first time around, these cecotropes are packed with vital nutrition. They have several essential vitamins, including vitamin K, and contain almost twice the protein and only half the fiber content of regular dark poops. This lower fiber content makes the nutrients easy to absorb.

Cecotropes also contain beneficial bacteria that are essential for the health of a guinea’s intestinal flora, and they can greatly benefit other sick guineas by helping to restore their gut biome. In fact, sick guineas have been known to steal cecotropes directly from their friend’s bottom!

Sick guineas often require antibiotics in order to get better, and although antibiotics are potentially lifesaving, they can also damage your guinea’s gut biome by killing off not only bad bacteria but also beneficial bacteria. If your guinea has been on a round of antibiotics, it’s a great practice to take to cecotropes from healthy guineas and feed them to your sick guinea to restore their biome.

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Final thoughts

Not only is guineas eating their own poop perfectly normal and natural, but it is also essential for their health. Many small mammals perform the same practice, and there is actually more reason to worry if they are not eating their poop! The next time that you notice your guinea eating their poop, you can rest easy knowing that they are healthy and happy and performing a perfectly natural practice.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.