Hedgehogs consume quite a variety of different foods in their diet. But poop? Really? Do these spiky mammals actually consume their own feces? If so, why? Here is what you need to know.
So, do hedgehogs eat their own poop? Hedgehogs have been known to eat their own poop. This is particularly likely when they are fed an inappropriate diet, or are missing out on the essential nutrition they need. Boredom and medical issues can be other reasons to investigate.
Sounds pretty gross right? But in all fairness; they’re just looking for nutrients.
Its a survival behavior, after all.
And if you own a pet hedgehog that is doing this; you’re not alone.
There are plenty of reports from owners who have observed this somewhat gross act. Some continue to do so.
Thankfully, there are some things you can do to stop and prevent it from happening.
But you’ll need to keep reading until the end for that.
For now, let’s look at why they do this and if it is actually dangerous!
Why Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Own Poop?
Hedgehogs will generally eat their poop to obtain extra nutrition. Either, they are not being fed enough, or the food that they are eating is nutritionally void and does not provide all of the vitamins, minerals, protein, etc. they need.
Along similar lines; it is believed that the poop of hedgehogs contains additional nutrition in the form of B Vitamins and Vitamin K.
But why is this?
Well, these nutrients are produced by gut bacteria through the digestion process.
So, a hedgehog is simply in need of, or wants to obtain these newly created nutrients for sustenance.
And its not exclusive to hedgehogs either.
Hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas and naked mole rats are known to do it too.
The scientific term for this behavior is called Coprophagy (the eating of feces).
Reasons for Coprophagy are numerous; out of boredom, a desire for warm food, or because the food is already partially digested and easier to consume.
Although, as that resource suggests, the eating of feces can occur for “less desirable reasons” – including medical conditions and diseases.
Thus, if you have a pet hedgehog and are concerned by them consuming their own poop – it is generally advised to consult a vet.
Their knowledge, expertise and testing may be able to help identify the underlying cause.
Is Poop Eating In Hedgehogs Dangerous?
Poop eating in hedgehogs is generally not dangerous and is somewhat expected behavior in this species. In many cases, it can even be beneficial. Although, it can be dangerous if the poop consumed is from another sick hedgehog who is carrying parasites.
For the most part, a hedgehog will be consuming their own feces.
They are solitary animals after all.
And if they are doing this, then it is usually not dangerous to their health.
It may not mean all is well though.
Particularly if the reason for doing it is out of nutritional necessity.
In that case the eating of poop is not dangerous – the dietary insufficiency is.
But, there are certain contexts where a hedgehog may consume the feces of another.
And this is when it can get unsafe.
Hedgehogs are actually pretty prone to carrying parasites (both internally and externally).
Internal parasites typically include various worms, and if ingested can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues.
And if not managed early, these can even result in dehydration and death.
So, if a hedgehog were to contract worms, it is essential that they are treated with appropriate deworming medication. Something a veterinarian could prescribe.
In regards to diagnoses; a hedgehog with an onset lack of appetite, a change in their general character, and lethargy are common signs they have contracted an illness.
How To Stop Hedgehogs From Eating Their Own Poop
Stopping a hedgehog from eating its own poop will include identifying the cause and reason behind the action. Is it out of nutritional deficiency, out of boredom or in response to a medical issue?
Either way, preventing a hedgehog from eating their own poop is only possible to an extent.
Chances are, they will continue this behavior.
But it can be reduced greatly – if the underlying reason is resolved.
First and foremost, you will want to ask yourself a range of questions:
- When did your hedgehog start eating their poop? Is this a new behavior?
- Does your hedgehog have the same food as before?
- Is your hedgehog able to easily eat their food?
- Is your hedgehog behaving differently?
- Does your hedgehog have sufficient stimulation?
These questions can help you get a better understanding into the cause.
It can help indicate whether the diet is nutritionally void or this is more behavioral.
Just consider that the age of hedgehog is important here.
The eating of feces is normal for the young of most species (to help them establish their intestinal flora) and for any mother – as they aim to keep the nest area clean.
So, it may be more challenging for some of you reading than it will be for others.
Nevertheless, preventing the consumption of poop can be achieved by regular cage cleanings.
Minimizing the opportunity for them to do so.
At the same time, ensuring that your hedgehogs food bowl remains filled and they have access to a sufficient amount of food.
From there, you can investigate the diet itself.
Does it contain all of the nutrients a hedgehog needs?
- Sufficient protein,
- Healthy fats,
- Fiber (chitin)
- Vitamins and minerals
There are now several different reputable brands of hedgehog food on the market.
You may want to introduce these, slowly.
- A totally cooked food supplement with chicken, whole soy and fish protein sources for hedgehogs.
- Along with minerals and vitamins, it provides specific nutrition for the young growing animal and/or for reproduction, as well as adult hedgehogs.
- 1.5 pound resealable bag
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Or you can always look to introduce a high-quality cat or dog food. These can meet a lot of the nutritional requirements of these mammals too.
Otherwise, be sure to provide insects, such as crickets.
As insectivores, providing this prey will help to replicate natural feeding behaviors and ensure they meet their nutritional needs.
While hedgehogs are prone to obesity, they do need to eat enough of the right foods.
Failing this, do speak to a veterinarian who will be able to offer more insightful, dietary advice.
And if you believe that there could be something medical going on – it does not matter what you change or do to their environment or diet.
They’ll likely need medication.
And for this, a veterinarian is again the person to speak with.
Hedgehogs do eat their own poop.
Just like many other animals.
There is a reason why this behavior has a scientific term – Coprophagy.
But the reasons behind this action can be numerous.
Sometimes they are entirely benign.
At other times it could indicate a much larger issue.
So my advice – consult a vet.
At the very least you can have your hedgehog inspected and rule out any medical issues.
Plus, you can ask about your hog’s specific dietary needs and get an understanding of if they are lacking in anything in particular.
But all in all, remember this.
Some poop eating is normal and should not be of concern.
And while it may seem strange to us – that does not mean it is not normal, to them.
Wondering what else a hedgehog will, can, and cannot eat? My following feeding guides may be of help:
- What Fruits Can Hedgehogs Eat?
- What Do Baby Hedgehogs Eat?
- Can Hedgehogs Eat Chicken?
- Can Hedgehogs Eat Dog Food?
- Can Hedgehogs Eat Cat Food?
- Can Hedgehogs Eat Bread?
- Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Young?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.