Eating Feces (Coprophagia) in Cats

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Key takeaways

Coprophagia describes eating feces, and is an uncommon symptom in cats.

  • Medical conditions that can lead to coprophagia in cats include malnourishment and cognitive dysfunction, but coprophagia can also be caused by under-stimulation or boredom
  • Coprophagia is not a medical emergency, however parasites or undigested medication can be transferred to cats through feces, potentially causing more serious complications
  • Diagnostics include a detailed history of eating habits and environment, fecal examination, urinalysis, and bloodwork
  • Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause, but may include antibiotics and dietary changes
  • Prompt removal of feces from a cat’s environment is usually enough to prevent coprophagia from continuing
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A closer look: Eating Feces (Coprophagia) in Cats

Cats exhibiting coprophagia benefit from medical intervention to rule out underlying health issues, such as pica.

The severity of coprophagia depends on how recurrent the behavior is. Cats consuming large amounts of feces may have more severe underlying conditions that must be addressed promptly.

Prompt removal of feces from accessible areas prevents cats from continuing to consume it, and benefits treatment whether the cause is medical or behavioral.

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Possible causes

Coprophagia may be due to malnutrition.

It may also be seen in cats living in unsanitary conditions where feces are abundant in the environment as part of normal cleaning behavior.

Risk factors

Coprophagia is most common in lactating cats and kittens, and is uncommon in other cats.

Eating feces is not a medical emergency. However, consumption of feces may lead to parasitic infection and transmission. In rare cases, feces may have undigested medication in them. If a cat exhibiting coprophagia ingests feces contaminated with medication, it can have a more serious health impact.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics include:

  • A detailed history of eating habits and environment
  • A physical examination
  • Fecal examination
  • Bloodwork
  • Urinalysis

Treatment varies depending on underlying cause, and may include medication, antibiotics, and dietary changes. Cats experiencing behavioral causes of coprophagia benefit from increased exercise and enrichment.

Similar symptoms

Eating feces is self-evident and not likely to be confused with other symptoms.

Associated symptoms

Jacqueline Brister, DVM - Writing for Veterinary Partner
CHRISTINE O'BRIEN - Writing for Hill's Pet Nutrition
Michael Kearley, DVM - Writing for PetMD

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