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do hamsters eat their poop?

Should Hamsters Eat Their Poop? (Coprophagy)

If you watch attentively for long enough, you may observe a pet hamster eating its poop. Scientifically known as coprophagy, this behavior is common among mammals of the order Rodentia.

It’s normal for hamsters to eat their poop because coprophagy allows them to glean essential nutrients they didn’t derive from their food the first time.

This also enables hamsters to remain safe from predators by eating their poop to hide the strong scent.

Hamsters only eat the cecotropes, which stick together because they’re soft and moist. The dry, hard, and odorless pellets will be ignored and can be safely removed during cage cleaning.

Do Hamsters Eat Their Poop?

The Journal of Nutrition explains how rodents are hindgut fermenters. Most hamsters eat their poop as soon as they go to the toilet, while some eat older cecotropes.

Even if you’ve not noticed this behavior before, it happens often. Hamsters are nocturnal animals, most active between dusk and dawn, so a hamster likely eats its droppings while you’re asleep. 

Even though it’s unpleasant to witness a hamster eating its poop, it has various health benefits. But first, it’s vital to understand the two different types of poop:

  • Standard dry and hard poop.
  • Softer poop is called cecotropes (night feces).

Hamsters don’t eat their dry droppings, only the softer cecotropes. Some hamsters move dry poop out of their way with their mouths, hence why there’s confusion about the two types.

During the coprophagy process, the hamster will:

  1. Eat its food.
  2. Digest it until it reaches the intestines.
  3. Excrete it quickly before eating it again.
  4. Then, it’s redigested a few hours afterward.

As described by the National Chung-Hsing University Department of Animal Science, the hindgut in hamsters includes the cecum, colon, and rectum.

This is the fermentation site where volatile fatty acids (VFA) are absorbed as an energy source.

What Are The Different Types of Hamster Poop?

There are two different types of hamster droppings: cecotropes and fecal pellets. Cecotropes differ from fecal pellets, so it’s easy to tell them apart.

What Does Hamster Poop Look Like?

Normal hamster poop (fecal pellets) looks like small black or dark brown oblong pellets. They’re dry and firm and don’t have a noticeable odor.

Healthy hamster poop isn’t moist and doesn’t leave behind any smears or stains. If you hold one between your fingers, it should remain firm, and you shouldn’t be able to squish it easily.

What Do Cecotropes Look Like?

Cecotropes are small and imperfectly round. Hamsters expel them in groups, so you’ll find several cecotropes stuck together, sometimes resembling a raspberry or blackberry.

Cecotropes are dark brown with a soft, squishy texture. They’re also coated with mucus, giving them a slight sheen. Unlike normal droppings, they smell more pungent.

Is It Ok for Hamsters To Eat Their Poop?

It’s normal for hamsters to eat their waste because cecotropes are nutritious and contain good bacteria.

While hamsters aren’t lagomorphs (like hares and rabbits), they have an esophagus that leads to the stomach. The body absorbs the essential nutrients when food enters the small intestine.

The food then moves through to the colon, where minimal absorption happens. Large fiber particles pass through the colon and are excreted by hamsters as dry droppings.

In the meantime, the food that contains the most nutrients moves back through the cecum (a sac-like structure between the colon and small intestine) through muscle contractions.

The food remains there while bacteria break it down into absorbable nutrients.

Later on, usually during the night, the food moves into the colon, eventually exiting the body. The hamster will eat the cecotropes and absorb the nutrients it didn’t the first time.

why is my hamster eating its own poop?

Why Is My Hamster Eating Its Own Poop?

Now you know it’s normal for hamsters to eat their poop, let’s explore why it happens:

Digesting Nutrients

The main reason hamsters eat their poop is to get the vitamins and minerals they need from them. Hamsters usually eat tough and fibrous foods, such as:

  • Pellets (or lab blocks).
  • Seeds.
  • Nuts.
  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.
  • Grasses.
  • Grains.

These foods contain lots of fiber, which is hard for hamsters to digest. Many hamsters defecate the fiber before the gut can fully digest it.

By eating cecotropes, the hamster gets the opportunity to digest the food and absorb the nutrients it wasn’t able to the first time around.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Hamsters also eat their poop due to nutritional deficiencies. This is closely linked to redigesting nutrients but also signifies that hamsters aren’t getting what they need from their diets.  

Hamsters are mistaken as herbivores (they’re omnivores as they eat insects and small mammals), so it surprises some owners to know that hamsters need lots of protein.

Hamsters living solely on a diet of pellets or seeds don’t get vital nutrients and must eat their poop to salvage more and get what they need.

Pay attention to a hamster’s diet, which should be balanced and varied with fruits and protein. Dried insects, like crickets and mealworms, increase a hamster’s protein intake.

To Avoid Predators

Hamsters are prey animals with many predators in the wild. Predators find them based on their smell, so hamsters eat smelly cecotropes to hide their scent and protect themselves from capture.

Captive hamsters do the same thing because they don’t realize they’re (usually) safe from predators.

Why Is My Hamster Not Eating Cecotropes?

Hamsters should eat their cecotropes because they contain nutrients. Cecotropes introduce healthy microorganisms into the cecum and balance the gut’s natural flora.

In most cases, hamsters eat their cecotropes so quickly at night that you rarely see them do it.

If you find cecotropes in a hamster’s cage, it may have stopped eating them. This is a cause for concern as healthy hamsters routinely consume their cecotropes. This can be due to the following:

  • Obesity. Overweight hamsters struggle to reach their cecotropes as they eliminate them.
  • Stress. If hamsters feel threatened, they prioritize hiding over eating their cecotropes.
  • Injuries or arthritis. These are causes of restricted movement, making consumption difficult.
  • Dental issues. Tooth pain or mouth conditions can make hamsters reluctant to eat their poop.

These issues must be quickly identified and resolved to prevent health problems.

Can You Stop Hamsters Eating Their Own Poop?

You can’t teach hamsters to stop eating their poop, as they’re hardwired to eat poop. Also, coprophagy benefits hamsters, so you should allow the hamster to carry out this natural behavior.

Keep the conditions as sanitary as possible by frequently spot-cleaning and deep-cleaning the cage.

As soon as an area becomes soiled, remove the poop and some of the surrounding bedding (no more than a quarter of overall bedding), as this will keep the cage clean while it eats cecotropes.