OCT 27, 2017 6:58 AM PDT

Why do animals eat poop?


How many of us are guilty of letting our pets lick our faces? It might seem cute, "Aw, she's giving me a kiss!"...until you think about where that mouth has been. The fact is, many animals, including dogs, bunnies, and dung beetles (no surprise there), eat poop - be it their own or a stranger's smelly deposit. But what's the science behind this unseemly attraction? Let's dive in.

Turns out there's actually a word that describes the phenomenon of an animal eating excrement: it's called coprophagia. For the case of rabbits, hares, pikas, and dung beetles, coprophagia is actually a survival technique which allows them to extract extra nutrients from their own, or others' already digested waste. But these animals aren't the only poop-diners.

Piglets, coals, non-human primates, and dogs also enjoy a poopy treat from time to time. For some young offspring, eating their mother's poop provides them the necessary gut bacteria for breaking down food in their stomachs later on. This is often the case with puppies, and the street even goes two ways, with mothers often eating their youngs' excrement too. Though this practice usually stops once the puppies grow up, veterinarians say that some dogs can develop a particular fondness for the habit, and will continue eating poop throughout adulthood. While this normally doesn't actually do any harm to good old Fido, I sure would watch where that tongue goes before getting any doggy kisses! Want to learn more about coprophagia? Watch the video!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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