Do You Prefer Predators or Prey?

Guinea Pig

How could anyone resist this face?

I had a disgusting revelation recently.

I came upon a nearly empty bag of dog treats containing a mixture of crumbs and mouse droppings. Yum.

It got me thinking of how dogs and cats fit easily into our lives, in part, because they can learn to defecate in acceptable places. But other animals—rats, mice, birds, guinea pigs—with rare exceptions, poop freely. Why?

Because if they take too long to manage nature’s urges, they’ll end up someone else’s dinner. That’s the difference between being a predator and prey. It all comes down to poop.

Guinea pigs are great pets. They are adorable (can I have a little Wheeeeeeeee?). They are inexpensive to buy and to keep. They are compact. And did I mention they’re adorable?

And yet there are a little over 3 million guinea pigs in the United States while there are nearly 165 million dogs and cats in American homes.

More Americans prefer to live with predators than with prey. Even though that choice will be harder on a daily basis.

Why do animal people choose predators over prey? Is it because humans are themselves the most dangerous predators?

Golden Retriever

You're calling me a predator? I prefer to be called a gangsta of love.

Or does it all come down to poop?

So what informs your choice of animals? Do you have both predators and prey in your home? Why or why not?

[Disclosures: I have been a guinea pig “aunt” for the past 25+ years. I mean no disrespect when I use the “p” word. The photo is from the RSPCA on Flickr.]

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  1. Hee hee. It always comes down to poo! Actually, in honesty, when I was younger and kept hamsters, they always peed in one particular corner of their cage, and they didn’t seem to flick poo all over the place but were rather neat about it. Flo, on the other hand, indescriminantly leaves great architectural piles of excrement all over the garden. Thankfully they are so big that you are unlikely to tread in one by accident!

    • So these architectural wonders of Flo’s: Are they Colonial Georgian or more contemporary in style? :)

      I’ve never been close to hamsters but if your experience is typical, they’re much more fastidious than guinea pigs.

  2. What “p” word? Prey, predator or poop? They all seem G rated to me.

    I’ve never thought of this poop and flee connection. Is it for real or did you just make it up? If its for real, I’m definitely a predator, one very high up in the food chain too, if you know what I mean. I like guinea pigs but I prefer snakes.

  3. LOL. Great. You know a guinea pig is in my near future and you had to go and talk about the free-pooping thing. Don’t tell my husband this. He has no idea.

  4. Haha! I’ve never had pooping styles and predator/prey status linked before. It makes sense though. Doesn’t everything in life depend upon our ability to poop at appropriate times and in appropriate places? Now, if someone could just clue in Sadie that pooping in the basement is a little more prey and a little less predator, that would be great.

  5. Except for a childhood bunny, I’ve never had any desire to own a prey as a pet. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with pooping or my own aggressive personality. Maybe I shouldn’t explore this too much.

  6. What a great insight. Makes sense to me too.

  7. Hmmm… I think I prefer the predators for a lot of reasons, but I have to agree with you on this one. I honestly never thought about it before, though!

  8. I had gerbils as a kid. The silly things lived for over five years, we were told they had a lifespan of two. I was bored with them after one.

    I don’t know if it’s a poop thing or if it’s just that prey animals haven’t evolved as pets as long as dogs and cats have. They are mostly afraid of us and unless you know what you are doing – and I did not – they don’t really interact with their human owners in the way dogs and cats do. My gerbils were happier when I wasn’t bugging them and putting them in balls and rolling them across my kitchen floor. They did not care if I existed as long as I cleaned their cage and provided food and water. Dogs and cats actually seek out our attention. The relationship is a lot more rewarding for both.

    Or maybe I was just the worst gerbil owner in the world?

  9. I have a guinea pig as well as two dogs (goldens….your Honey is a beauty) and a cat. Here’s my theory. Because they’re prey animals they are naturally skiddish and, so, are much harder to develop a relationship with. We’ve had Toby, the guinea pig, for five years and he still runs like his life depends on it when we try to pick him up. I know many people have lovely, friendly guinea pigs but I suspect my experience is more typical.

  10. Hmmm. . .I have never had “prey” as a pet, so I can’t really chime in :) I have never even really wanted on . .although, I think bunnies are SO CUTE!!! I am all about the cats and dogs . . I think I like the attention that they give me!!

  11. An interesting look at pet parenthood.

    My house is mostly full of predators, but it has nothing to do with their poop habits. I had many prey creatures growing up when I couldn’t have a dog or cat and I love interacting with my parrots and bunny now. They can be just as much fun and loving as a dog or cat. People are often surprised to find that out when they add one to their family (of course like any pet, you get what you put in. No attention equals a pet that doesn’t give you attention).

    Many prey can be trained to a litter box like a rabbit- or to poop on command like a parrot- . It takes time and patience just like house training a puppy, but most people don’t bother since the mess is contained to a cage. I do have to say I think it’s nicer to just remove a layer of paper from the cage and playstand floors than to pooper scoop the yard. And there is the added bonus that bunny poop is compostable.

  12. I had hamsters and gerbils as a kid, but have no desire to have them now. I think it’s more of the rodent relationship. Part of it is the horror stories of how rodents spread germs. But, more importantly, having a rodent for a pet almost guarantees I have a pet that came from a breeder mill, and I am not going to pay to keep those folks in business.

  13. Here is exactly why this is one of my favorite blogs, “It all comes down to poop.” I think this sums up my life perfectly. If you are in my ‘inner’ circle you know how to talk poop. Seriously, somehow or another the talk always turns to poop.

    Here’s the thing about mice (I got a quick and dirty from an exterminator once) they pee when they walk, they reproduce like every month and their poop can contain a very dangerous virus. When you clean up their mess you are supposed to use a strong solution of clorox and spray the feces with the clorox and then pick it up with a paper towel. The Hantavirus is primarily in the western United States, but it is far safer to use these precautions when cleaning up poop you might find in your house.

    For my part, I prefer the predator.