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9:30 am - 5:30 pm
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Thursday, February 22

9:30 am
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5:30 pm
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Monitoring scat for animal health

If you follow the Zoo on our social networks, you might remember a certain #TakeoverTuesday that had an unusual focus on scat. Well, that was me, and if you didn’t get enough of a scat talk then you’re in luck: here is “Scat Chat 2.0.” Working in the Wieland Wildlife Home, I have the privilege of working with a wide variety of species, meaning I also get to experience a wide variety of scat. And when I say experience I truly mean it. As an animal care professional, I do get defecated and urinated on on a regular basis; however, the output from an animal is one of the many elements we look at to determine overall health. So if an animal such as a snake, chinchilla, tortoise or rabbit happens to defecate on me I consider the following:

  1. Is there a normal amount? Animals only defecate as often as they eat. Snakes get fed every other week, and it takes about 48 hours for them to fully digest their food. Therefore we really shouldn’t be seeing much more poop than that.
  2. Is it normal consistency? For animals such as chinchillas, one of the early warning signs for gastric intestine issues can be spotted in their poop. Normal chinchilla feces should be about the size of a large grain of rice and slightly softer than uncooked rice. If it is too soft to the touch and/or sticky, then that tells us something is going on and needs to be addressed.
  3. What color is it? Each species has its own “style” of feces that its body naturally produces. We all know what the traditional color feces is supposed to look like; however, if we ever find black feces that can be an indication that there is blood in the intestines, which is not good.
  4. Does it have an unusual smell? Yes, I know poop smells, but some poop smells sweeter than others. Goat poop, for instance, I would describe as smelling much sweeter than snake poop. This is because of what they eat. Goats eat a variety of hay which is very sweet in smell, while snakes eat mouse meat. It doesn’t take an animal care expert to know which will smell the best after the “journey.”

For the majority of an animal care professional’s career, the feces our animals eliminate is healthy, but it’s our job to know what to look/smell for. As such, we acquire odd skills that are important to our everyday work that in the “real world” are maybe considered not so appealing, but they are an important part of monitoring the animals’ health and well-being. Although there are smelly days, that does not stop us from loving what we do.
Deidre Ousterhout
Keeper II, Ambassador Animals

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl