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Coprophagy in Hamsters 101: Why do hamsters eat their poop?

Coprophagy comes from the Greek word “to eat dung”. Appropriately named, it is when an animal decides to consume their own feces. It is also more correctly called “cecotrophy”. This behavior has been observed in many animals such as rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and of course, hamsters.

What are Cecotropes?

Hamsters benefit twice from the food that they eat. First through retention in a pouch-like structure located in your hamster’s large intestine called the cecum. This allows for the degradation and absorption of microbial products. The second is from eating and digesting special poop your hamster produces.

When your hamster eats food, it travels through the hamster’s digestive system. It goes through the stomach and then the small intestine where food is broken down and absorbed. After the food passes through here, most nutrients can’t be absorbed in its current form. While large fiber particles usually get expelled from your hamster’s body as regular feces, other materials do not get broken down enough to release all the nutrients.

This is why there’s a special process in your hamster’s digestion that moves nutrient-rich portions of the food into the cecum. Helpful bacteria break down this material into absorbable nutrients like starches, sugars, and amino acids. The extra nutrients are then contained in special poop called cecotropes/caecotrophs or “soft feces”. The creation of cecotropes means that good bacteria and nutrients are not wasted.

Cecotropes are rich in nutrients like Vitamin K and Vitamin B, essential fatty acids, and protein. They also contain less fiber than regular poop. These nutrients couldn’t be absorbed by your hamster’s body the first time. So eating cecotropes allows your hamster to absorb otherwise wasted nutrients.

Eating cecotropes also helps maintain a balanced gut flora which is essential for health and digestion. If there is something wrong with their gut flora, your hamster could experience diarrhea or other complications. It is also considered unusual for hamsters to experience constipation. If your hamster has diarrhea or is having a hard time pooping, it is advisable to see a vet.

If your hamster is pregnant or lactating, they might be producing and eating more cecotropes because it can help increase the supply of vitamin B12 and folic acid. Hamster mothers also provide nutrients to their pups through their poop. Hamster pups may eat their mother’s poops in order to develop a healthy gut flora. Ginger's Guide even recommends blending healthy hamster poop with their hamster mush.

If your hamster is obese, they may be unable to eat their cecotropes. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies or cecotrope accumulation. It’s really important that your hamster has a balanced diet and gets exercise.

The difference between dry regular poop and cecotropes

Regular Poop
These poop are usually dark brown, dry, and hard to the touch. Most of the poop you’ll find scattered in your hamster’s enclosure is likely to be regular poop, as hamster will usually consume their cecotropes.

Compared to regular feces, cecotropes are softer and more moist. They may also have a greenish tint to them. These poops might also stick together in small clusters. They might look “shiny” in appearance.

Is it okay to spot-clean my hamster’s poop?

Oftentimes, your hamster will have already consumed their cecotropes before you’ve even had a chance to see them. Most of the poop that is in their nest or in other areas is likely to be dry regular poop. It’s okay to spot-clean your hamster’s enclosure regularly for soiled bedding and poop. However, your hamster’s nest shouldn’t be cleaned too often as it could cause them unnecessary stress.


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