Friday, November 23, 2012

Veterinary Medical Terminology 101: Coprophagia - You Eat What?!

I chose an interesting word for today, being "Exotic Friday" and all. Today's veterinary medical term is "coprophagia". Any guesses as to what this word means? I'll give you some hints. It is something that small mammals like rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats, and hamsters do. It's also something that some dogs do... but they probably shouldn't.

Still don't know? Let's break down the word. Copro- means feces and -phagia means to eat. Yes, there is really a medical term for this, but why? I know it sounds disgusting, but it is a very important part of life for some animals.

Small mammals have a very special and sensitive gastrointestinal tract. A small mammal's gut needs to be always on the move. This is why they are constantly eating and pooping. It's OK though since this is their job.

Rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small mammals produce two kinds of poops. Pellets, which are the ones you usually see. They are firm and shaped like, well... pellets. The second kind are called cecotropes and are more commonly known as "night feces". Night feces are not usually seen because they are eaten immediately. This is typically done early in the morning, and most pet parents don't even notice. That is where they get the name night feces from. They are a soft grape-like cluster of stool. 

These little furry critters' cecum is full of beneficial bacteria that is essential to their health and well-being. This bacteria is consumed with the night feces. The night feces provide small mammals with vital nutrients. Without them, they would become ill and suffer malnutrition. So don't stop it from happening! It is perfectly natural. I have witnessed rabbits and guinea pigs consuming their own fecal pellets, which is OK too.

As for dogs who like to eat snacks from the kitty litter box, that's a whole different story... So there's the poop scoop on coprophagia. Hope I didn't gross anyone out too much!


  1. great post Ann,I'm alway cheaking to make sure this natural process is happening if it wasn't I would be worried that something is wrong,Speedys mum

  2. Nope, I don't think anyone's grossed out, that was very useful

  3. This was the perfect way to start my day.... Yikes! :) Cupcake loves to eat goose poop when we walk in the field by my house. I intercept 99% of her attempts, but she usually scores a snack or two if she's quick enough. Ugh!

  4. We grew our of that much to my peeps delight. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

  5. Ray seems to have a special radar for cat poo. We liken it to a pig rooting for truffles in the yard.

  6. Very interesting. Chester and Gretel are dogs and eat their poop but I don't think for the same reason. They just like really gross smelling stuff :)

  7. I don't think it was gross, just part of real lift. The dogs here love to eat cat poop and also goat poop. It is hard to stop them for eating the outside cats poop. But it doesn't seem to hurt them. I do watch them and if I see them doing it, I do stop them. I did not know that rabbits and small animals all did it on purpose.

  8. Hello, my name is Remy and I...I eat rabbit poop. And duck poop. Okay, I eat kitty poop too.

  9. Yep, my pet Suggie definitley does coprophagia. His poop smells as sweet as maple syrup, maybe tastes like it too (though I highly doubt that). That's probably the reason why he eats it. He doesn't get ill so I guess it's fine, but it's a bad habit nonetheless. Thanks for sharing the term!

    Priscilla Price @

    1. I think for Sugar Gliders to them some is normal as well. Many rodents do it.


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