What do sloths eat?

Sloths are folivores, meaning they primarily eat leaves from various trees and vines. Here are the key points about a sloth's diet and eating habits:


  • Sloths feed mainly on leaves, twigs, buds, and occasionally fruits and seed pods from trees12345.
  • They locate food by touch and smell, hooking branches with their claws and pulling them towards their mouth3.
  • An individual sloth rotates between 7-12 favorite feeding trees to avoid overexposure to toxins from any one species5.
  • Wild sloths have been observed eating from over 90 different tree species5.

Eating Habits

  • Sloths have a very slow metabolic rate and digestive system. It can take up to 30 days to fully digest a single leaf15.
  • They eat relatively small quantities of leaves per day, only about 73.5 grams on average for three-toed sloths1.
  • Sloths increase their food intake slightly on warmer days when they can better metabolize the leaves5.
  • Baby sloths start sampling leaves from their mother's mouth as early as one week old to learn what to eat1.

Captive Diet

  • Captive sloths are often fed vegetables, fruits, eggs and other non-tropical plants that they have not evolved to eat1.
  • A typical captive diet for two-toed sloths includes boiled carrots, eggs, flowers, celery, green beans and bananas1.
In summary, sloths are highly specialized leaf-eaters that have evolved a remarkably slow digestive system to extract nutrients from a low-calorie, high-toxin diet of tree foliage135.
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