Guinea pig owners are often shocked when they see what looks like their little piggy eating poop!
Although it seems odd, it is perfectly normal guinea pig behavior.
If your piggy is eating its poop, do not stop them; they do this for a good reason.
Guinea pigs eat what is called a cecotrope, not actual feces, to derive essential nutrients from plant matter they could not absorb the nutrition from on the first go-round. It is softer than regular poop and an important part of guinea pig nutrition.
Guinea pigs, or cavies, are what are known as hindgut fermenters.
Hindgut fermenters have a single-chambered stomach (unlike a cow or goat, which are ruminants) and an enlarged cecum at the end of the large intestine.
The fermentation of digestive matter happens in the large intestine and cecum, resulting in softer poop.
For more on why guinea pigs eat their poop, read on!
Table of Contents
Fecal Matter Vs. Cecal Matter
There are two types of pellets for your guinea pig to poop.
Fecal matter is waste from the body, has had all the nutrients absorbed already, and is mostly fiber.
Cecal matter, or cecotropes, is full of nutrients the body hasn’t absorbed but has passed through the digestive tract.
Cecotropes are softer and lighter in color than the harder, darker regular fecal matter.
Guinea pigs will eat a cecotrope as soon as it is passed, so you will rarely see these green- or yellow-tinged droppings.
If you see cecotropes around your piggy’s cage, there is likely something wrong with their health.
Feed your piggy more hay and fewer pellets if the cecotropes are soft and sticky.
Read more about what guinea pig poop should smell like.
Coprophagy and Nutrition
The practice of animals eating their feces is called coprophagy or, more correctly, cecotrophy.
Many herbivores do not have a rumen like cows and goats do, so they evolved cecotrophy to help them digest fiber.
Guinea pigs, rabbits, chinchillas, mice, rats, and hamsters engage in this behavior.
These animals cannot fully chew or digest the fiber in their food, so it is passed through the digestive system.
The result is soft poops containing vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K.
Cecotropes have twice the protein of regular poop.
This material needs to be ingested again to get the nutrition.
Your piggy could pass a cecotrope as much as 200 times per day!
Cecotropes have half the fiber of regular dark poops, so they are easier to digest the second time around.
They also contain beneficial bacteria from the guinea pig’s gut biome.
What To Do If Your Guinea Pig Isn’t Eating Their Cecotropes?
As piggies age, they lose muscle tone in their anus.
This can cause fecal impaction in the elderly guinea pig, and the poo and cecotropes won’t come out.
This will lead to a loss of essential nutrients and a malnourished guinea pig.
They will need some vitamin supplements and extra nutrients until regular defecation is restored.
You or the vet can help ease out the poop, and the piggy may eat it.
Eating it is normal and important for reestablishing the intestinal flora and restoring a natural digestive process.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Each Other’s Poop?
Guinea pigs eat their own and each other’s poop.
While most guinea pigs are healthy, sometimes a piggy needs extra nutrients or bacteria from their cage mate’s poop.
Eating cecotropes is important for passing healthy bacteria from female guinea pigs to baby guinea pigs and establishing intestinal flora in the young.
A sick guinea pig will even eat cecotropes directly from another pig right when they come out!
A trick to help your piggy recover intestinal flora quickly from a round of antibiotics (they kill the good bacteria and the bad bacteria) is to feed them cecotropes from a healthy guinea pig.
If a piggy misses essential vitamins or other nutrients, it may eat another piggy’s poop to recover them.
How Often Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Poop?
Guinea pigs eat and poop constantly throughout the day, so there are a lot of opportunities!
We do not see them eating poop as often because they often eat the cecal poops directly from their bottoms.
This happens from 150 to 200 times a day and probably looks to you like they are grooming themselves.
On the other hand, a normal guinea pig will poop regular feces about 100 times a day.
This lessens with age, but if your guinea pig poops less than 50 times a day, check them out.
Can Guinea Pigs Fart?
Guinea pigs can fart like other animals but cannot handle much gas in their intestines.
Too much gas in their intestines can cause bloat, which is very painful and life-threatening.
Bloat is caused by a sudden change in diet, too many fermentable veggies, eating too quickly, stress, dehydration, and cold, wet, or rotten food!
Symptoms of bloat are:
- Hard and swollen belly
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness, lethargy
- Muscles spasms
- Rapid breathing
- Regurgitation of saliva due to nausea
- Weight loss
If your piggy gets bloat, hydrate them with gripe water from a syringe.
Massage your piggy’s belly gently from back to front so the gas can escape through its mouth.
If there is no improvement, take your pet to the vet as soon as possible for further assessment.
What Should I Feed My Guinea Pig To Keep It Healthy?
As a pet owner, you want to keep your pet happy and healthy.
Make sure you provide constant access to food and fresh water.
Provide plenty of clean, nutritious hay and a good quality vitamin C-fortified pellet with minimal treats.
Understand how the poop of guinea pigs is part of their nutrition cycle and recognize the two types of poop and why your piggy might be eating them.