While it is inconceivable for humans to eat poop, hamsters have a different opinion of the digestive waste that comes out of their anus.
Do hamsters eat their poop?
Like many other rodents, hamsters will eat their poop. However, they do not always do so.
When hamsters poop, they produce two types of poop: dry/hard poop and soft poop. Of these two types, hamsters only eat the soft kind. They leave the hard kind as waste.
The act of eating poop is called coprophagy, and while it might be unpleasant to you, it is necessary for hamsters.
Understandably, the next question on your mind is, why do hamsters eat their poop? Well, we provide an answer to this and more in this article.
Hamsters and Coprophagy
Hamsters are coprophagous; they eat their soft poop and leave the hard. They typically produce their soft droppings at night, so these droppings may also be called night poop.
Since hamsters are more active at night, they eat more at night and produce soft droppings during that time.
Why Is My Hamster Eating Its Poop?
Now that you know that hamsters eat their poop, you probably want to know why. Well, you could say hamsters eat their poop for the nutrients.
To be more specific, hamsters digest most of their food in the cecum – the junction between the small intestine and the large intestine. However, this arrangement is not ideal for maximum nutrient absorption.
Nutrients produced from digesting food are primarily absorbed in the stomach and the small intestine. But since digestion is more pronounced in the cecum, most of the nutrients end up in the long intestine. And since the long intestine does not absorb so much, the hamsters may lose out on the nutrients they need.
To make up for this, hamsters consume their poop. By doing so, they can absorb the escaped nutrients from their feces through their stomach and small intestine.
Apart from the above, hamsters can only produce certain amino acids and water-soluble vitamins in their small intestine. This is so because they need their beneficial microbial flora to digest some macromolecules such as cellulose.
One of the water-soluble vitamins produced in the small intestine – vitamin B12 – can only be absorbed when combined with a protein found in the stomach. So, to use vitamin B12, it becomes imperative for hamsters to consume their poop.
Most times, after eating the soft droppings (night poop), hamsters produce the hard/dry droppings. Hard droppings are of no nutritional benefit to hamsters. So, they do not eat them, and this is why you may see this kind of poop in and around their cage.
Besides having no nutritional benefit to hamsters, dry/hard droppings may also be harmful. They may have been contaminated with harmful bacteria in the bedding and urine.
Hamsters typically eat the soft droppings as they come out or directly from their anus. So, they never get contaminated before consumption.
Besides the hard droppings, hamsters will not eat poop produced when stressed or frightened. Such droppings are of no nutritional benefit to them.
Do Baby Hamsters Also Eat Poop?
Like adult hamsters, baby hamsters also eat poop. At birth, baby hamsters do not have the gut microbes essential for digestion. So, they consume the night poop from their mother to get their own gut microbes.
Beyond populating their gut with beneficial microbes, baby hamsters cannot really tell food and non-food apart. So, they pretty much eat whatever they can, including their mother’s night poop.
Will a Diet Change Stop My Hamster From Eating Its Poop?
Making the diet of your hamster richer in nutrients will not stop it from eating its poop. Coprophagy might not be the cutest act, but it is natural for hamsters.
No matter what you do to your hamster’s diet, the need to eat its poop will always be there. It will always redigest its droppings to get all the nutrients it can.
How Often Should I Clean My Hamster’s Cage?
Knowing that your hamster feeds on its own poop might get you wondering how often you should clean the cage.
Well, while hamsters eat their poop, you must still clean their cage regularly. If you don’t, it is sure to get messy pretty fast.
Hamster poop might not be smelly, but hamster urine can be pretty offensive. So, if you are thinking of postponing cage cleaning because hamsters eat their poop, you are in for a shocker.
To be honest, cleaning your hamster’s cage is not so easy. Replacing soiled bedding and picking up dry, hard poop is simple. But the problem is hamsters produce a lot of droppings, and sometimes, it can get overwhelming.
To ensure you never get overwhelmed with hamster poop, try to pick dry poop out of the cage every morning. Do the cleaning in the morning because hamsters are nocturnal, so they poop more at night.
Hamsters sometimes hide their poop; they may hide it in their mouth, food bowl, or somewhere in their cage. So, when cleaning the cage, take note of such possibilities.
Besides scooping dry poop off the bedding every morning, ensure you replace the bedding weekly. Leaving soiled bedding in your hamster’s cage for too long will definitely brew an offensive smell.
Then besides the bedding, ensure you wash the food and water bowls regularly. If you don’t, you leave your hamster at risk of eating contaminated food.
Hamsters eat their poop as a way to recoup most of the nutrients they don’t get in their meals. Being hindgut fermenters, most of the digestion in hamsters happens at the tail end of their digestive system.
So, they can only absorb minimal amounts of nutrients before they excrete the digested meals. To solve this problem, they eat the ensuing poop, absorbing the escaped nutrients in the process.