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Do Cats Eat Their Own Poop? Vet-Approved Facts

Cats are curious creatures, and we may see them sampling all sorts of non-edible things; houseplants, cardboard boxes, our toes, are just a few examples. Many animals eat their feces to digest maximum nutrients, but do cats do this too?

Cats do not normally engage in coprophagia (eating feces), but some exceptions exist. Mother cats will lick their babies and eat the feces of their young for the first weeks of their lives to keep them clean and stimulate them to poop on their own. On other occasions, it is not normal for cats to eat their feces, and this behavior signals a physical or mental imbalance.


A Biological Drive

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  • Ingestion of kittens’ waste for cleaning and toilet stimulation
  • Kittens eating feces for gut bacteria
Image Credit: victorhugosilvafotografo, Shutterstock

Mother Cat

A mother cat will stimulate her young to urinate or defecate by licking their genitals, helping them to develop regular bowel and bladder movements.

This behavior is linked to survival in the wild. Cats bury their feces away from their living space to cover their scent from nearby predators. Mother cats remove kitten feces to hide their scent while still in the den.

Kittens are particularly vulnerable, especially in the first 30 days. Cats will often leave their kittens alone for periods to go hunting, and she wants to ensure they stay hidden and safe.


As the kittens begin to explore and wean off milk, they encounter a wide range of bacteria. Kittens must build immunity and a beneficial balance of gut bacteria to withstand the range of potentially harmful microorganisms they will ingest through their lives.

Ingesting microbes in the first few weeks of life can contribute to a richer intestinal flora. This behavior may continue as the kittens grow, but they should naturally grow out of it within weeks.

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Risks of Coprophagia in Cats

If cat poop benefits cats at certain stages of their life, why don’t they eat their poop all through their life?

While one-off ingestion of feces should not cause much harm to your cat, there are some health risks if a cat engages in coprophagia frequently.

For example, if the feces in question belong to a medicated cat, the poop may contain remnants of these drugs. It’s rare for cats, but this is a genuine concern for dogs who eat poop more often. 

Eating poop also puts your cat at a higher risk of contracting parasites or worsening a current infection. Intestinal parasites spread from animal to animal by shedding eggs through feces, which hatch in the digestive system they end up in.

Eating feces expose your cat to these parasites. If they eat their feces already infected with mild parasites, they can perpetuate the cycle.

Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

Why Does My Cat Eat Their Own Poop?

A cat’s poop-eating behavior may mean you have to clean the litter box less, but this “bonus” is not worth the risks. To stop this behavior, you first need to identify the cause, and this process may take some time and close observations. Contact your vet to support you in pinpointing the issue.

Nutritional Deficiency

Many animals that engage in coprophagia are herbivores that redigest dense plant matter to increase nutrient absorption.

These animals are usually hindgut fermenters, meaning the plant matter has already passed through the absorption site before it is fermented down (unlike sheep, who ferment plant matter before digesting it).

It’s not normal for cats to eat poop for nutritional reasons due to their diet and digestion type. However, eating poop may be a sign that they lack nutrients. A trip to the vet for health screening and diet adjustment can help rectify this situation.

Other signs of nutritional deficiencies include:
  • Poor skin and coat condition
  • Losing weight
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy


Coprophagia may be a sign of an internal parasite burden. These parasites leach nutrients from the digestive tract and cause malnutrition despite adequate food consumption. Your cat may be searching to supplement their diet as they struggle to maintain their condition.

Some theories for dogs also suggest that individuals with parasites may eat their feces to prevent younger or more vulnerable members of the pack from becoming infected.

This is not substantiated, but something to think about if your cat has kittens nearby they are trying to protect.

Speak to your vet about a standard fecal parasite count of your cat’s poop to test for parasites.

Other signs of parasites include:
  • Dull coat
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mucus or blood in feces
  • Bloating

Illness or Disease

Some diseases can cause extreme hunger in cats. With the lack of an alternative, a desperate cat may turn to anything they can find, including their poop. Common causes for extreme hunger include:

As always, contact your vet to investigate your cat’s health.

Image Credit: Julia Cherk, Shutterstock


Abnormal fecal consumption in cats may be attributed to behavioral reasons. Undue stress or anxiety can cause such strange behaviors. Coprophagia because of stress may be due to:

  • Fear of being punished for defecation. If you have punished your cat for pooping in the house, they may feel compelled to “hide the evidence” in a similar accident.
  • Submission to another pet. Cats hide their poop to cover their scent from potential threats. In social groups, they will also do this to submit to more dominant individuals. Anxiety around other animals may cause cats to eat their poop.
  • A learned behavior. If this unfortunate behavior is formed under times of stress, even once the stressor is removed from your cat’s life, it can be hard for them to break the habit. Psychological damage is hard to reverse.

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How to Stop It

  • Clean the litter box often or consider investing in an automatic litter box.
  • Visit the vet regularly for health checks.
  • Ensure you’re providing a complete and balanced diet to meet all nutritional needs.
  • Slow down their eating to optimize food digestion.
  • And most importantly, don’t punish your cat. The further emotional damage may only worsen the issue.
cat litter box_ borzywoj, Shutterstock
Image Credit: borzywoj, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Overall, your cat eating poop is not normal. You and your vet should investigate to decipher the root cause of the issue, whether it’s physical or behavioral.

However, don’t be alarmed if your mother cat or her kittens are eating poop. This behavior is an evolved survival trait for vulnerable young cats.

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Featured Image: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock