Do Sloths Die When They Poop? What?!?!

What kind of question is that – do sloths die when they poop? Initially, the question may seem like a random, strange, and crazy one to ask – and perhaps it is. However, after doing some research, I have discovered some information that I found quite interesting (and that I hope you do, too).

So, that is the topic of this article and it will be written in the following way: I will discuss how sloths go about “doing their business”, I will talk about a huge risk that sloths face when doing that business, and I will end with a little bit of “poop information”. By the end of the article, I will have (hopefully) answered our question and maybe even taught you a thing or two. If nothing else, I hope that this article provides you with some interesting content. So, let’s talk about…..uhmmmm…..poop.


Are We Really Going To Talk About Poop Here?!?!

Well…..yes, we are!

Sloths spend most of their lives hanging upside down in trees. So many of the activities that they do is done in those trees while upside down including eating, sleeping, mating, and giving birth. It is rare for sloths to leave the comfort and protection of their natural habitat in the trees, but there is one main reason that some of them do leave there…..and that is to poop. And when it is time to poop, these sloths are very picky as they insist on doing it on the ground.

As the slowest-moving mammal (and one of the slowest-moving animals) on the entire planet, it can take quite some time (and use up a lot of their energy) for sloths to take this trip from high in the trees all the way down to the ground below. Once or twice a week, some of these sloths will make this incredible journey. Oftentimes, they will also have a favorite tree picked out as a place to poop.


The Dangers That Sloths Face When They Poop

The safest place for sloths to be is high up in the trees and the most dangerous place for them to be is on the ground. While on the ground, they are very vulnerable to attacks from other animals during this time. They are even acutely aware of this vulnerability that they face and will be more “on edge” during this time.

There are three main predators of sloths – jaguars, ocelots, and harpy eagles. More information about this can be found in my article titled, “Sloth Predators – There Are Several Of Them“. Sloths have an incredibly difficult time walking on the ground and are easy prey while they are there. Add in the fact that they have bad eyesight and cannot hear very well and you have a recipe for disaster.


So…..Why Would Some Sloths Choose To Poop On The Ground?

So, based on the previous information provided, would it not make sense (and be simpler and safer) for all sloths to just poop while they are in the trees? Why would some of these sloths choose to expend all of this energy and put themselves in such a dangerous situation just to poop on the ground?

Well, it turns out that others have also asked these same questions and based on the research that I did, no one seems to have a definitive answer. In discussing this, The Sloth Conservation Foundation states the following: “So why bother? There must be a huge selective advantage to this weird weekly routine – it should be obvious. Yet this remains one of the biggest mysteries surrounding sloth behaviour and one that scientists have struggled to explain for decades.”


Some Additional Poop Info

While doing my research for this article, I uncovered some additional information that I found rather interesting. Here is some of that information:

  • According to Mental Floss, “Two-toed sloths often let ‘er rip from the trees, but three-toed sloths follow a bizarre routine that has baffled scientists. They typically make their way down to the forest floor to relieve their backed-up bowels, and once they get there, they do a little “poo dance” while digging a small hole to defecate inside.”
  • With each bowel movement that sloths have, they can lose over 30% of their body weight – yikes!
  • Despite the fact that sloths take such huge “dumps”, they do not fart. Perhaps it all gets saved up for the “big one”.
  • The Washington Post states that “Female sloths, it seems, break the once-a-week rule when they go into heat, or estrus. For those 10 days, the ladies urinate and defecate every single day, and it’s always at the base of the same tree. Sexy, right?”.
  • Sadly, about half of sloth deaths occur when they are on the ground. The act of pooping does not kill them – instead, it is the attacks of predators that catch them when they are in such a vulnerable situation, are basically defenseless, and are unable to escape from the danger.

After doing some searching, I was finally able to find a video of a sloth pooping that did not show any of the “details”. This particular video was posted by Kids Saving The Rainforest on August 20, 2020. Check it out here:


Okay, I’m Pooped Out

Yes, I realize that may have been a horrible title for the conclusion to this article but I am okay with it. On a more serious note, I do hope that you enjoyed my article “Do Sloths Die When They Poop?” and that you learned something new by reading it.

In the article, I managed to answer our question as I wrote the article in the following manner: I discussed how sloths go about “doing their business”, I talked about a huge risk that sloths face when doing that business, and I ended with a little bit of “poop information”.

Part of me wants to apologize for writing an article about poop, but another part of me recognizes the fact that poop is part of life for all of us, including sloths, so I chose to write the article after all.

If you have any comments or questions that you’d like to leave, please feel free to do so below.

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  • Hi there! Amazing article! Thanks for sharing this educative piece about sloths! It was an exciting experience going through this. I learnt a thing or two from this. Before going through this I never knew they spend most of their lives on trees hanging upside down. Thank goodness I do now. 

    • Michael Christmann says:

      Hi to you, too!

      Thank you for taking a look at my article and leaving your comments.  I’m so glad to hear that you were able to learn a thing or two by reading it.

      All the best!

  • LearnToEarn Admin says:

    Most of us are unaware of the dangers animals face on a daily basis with their predators prowling around waiting for their next meal.

    I found your article fascinating and interesting since I did not know much about sloths. As I read, I could quite understand the stress the sloth goes through weekly to do their business. This must be quite daunting and maybe that’s why it takes a week for them to be brave!  But as with all things, there is a natural cycle that ensures that the population of our animals is kept balanced, until man interferes.

    Thank you for taking the time to put this information together for us to make us more aware of what is happening in nature.

    • Michael Christmann says:

      Yes, it must be so stressful to be a sloth about to do its business.  I agree with you that there is a natural cycle of balance that occurs in nature (which I find so amazing).  But like you said, “until man interferes”.  Then destruction occurs.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for leaving your insightful comments on it.

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