The thought of eating your own poop would be very disgusting to you, which is why it’s difficult for pet owners to understand why rabbits need to eat their own poop. It is different for rabbits, though.
Their primary diet consists of grass, which contains a lot of cellulose and fiber. These two components of grass make it difficult for a rabbit to digest it. Therefore, most of the nutrients that are needed by the animal may still be in the food by the time it reaches its intestines, and the rabbit would have to excrete it.
A rabbit excretes two different types of feces. One is called a cecotrope, and it is soft and black. These cecotropes contain many nutrients that have been expelled by the rabbit, so the rabbit eats them again. The other type of feces is dry, black, and crumbly. It is the undigestible waste product excreted by the animal after it has digested the nutrients in the food. The rabbit does not eat these feces.
Rabbits need to eat their poop to digest the undigested nutrients in a process known as hindgut fermentation.
How Does A Rabbit Eat Its Cecotropes?
You may not notice many cecotropes in your rabbit’s cage. There is a reason for this. Rabbits eat cecotropes as they are excreted, straight from their butts. Therefore, you may think that your rabbit grooming its anal region, but what it is actually doing is eating its cecotropes. Rabbits eat these cecotropes whole, but will not eat their regular feces since it contains no nutrients.
Should I Stop My Rabbit From Eating Its Poop?
Even though you might find it disgusting for your rabbit to carry out this act of eating its feces, you should not stop it from doing so. Consumption of cecotropes by a rabbit is essential for its digestion. This is because the animal will be able to digest some food materials that were not digested the first time the food passed through its guts.
Since much of the nutrients like proteins and vitamins in the food that a rabbit consumes are passed out the first time, the animal will need to get the nutrients back. The best way in which it can do that is by eating its poop. Apart from giving the rabbit nutrients, cecotropes also help to balance or maintain the beneficial microorganisms in a rabbit’s gut.
How Can I Differentiate Cecotropes From Normal Rabbit Poop?
The regular rabbit poop is dry and round. You may not notice its smell, but rabbits can. If you own a rabbit, you will find many of these droppings around your pet’s cage. The major component of these droppings is hay, and you can easily crush the pelleted balls.
Cecotropes, on the other hand, are not dry like the other poop.
They are sticky, and they are usually excreted in groups. They are also darker in color than the other droppings, plus they have a more noticeable smell. You do not need to bother about this, as your rabbit can differentiate between both types of poop. It instinctively knows which one it is to eat and which one it is to ignore.
What Could Make A Rabbit Stop Eating Its Cecotropes?
Since it is normal for rabbits to eat their cecotropes, you should be concerned if your pet suddenly stops eating its own. You will usually notice a small amount of the poop now and then in your rabbit’s enclosure.
However, if the amount suddenly increases, it means that your rabbit is not eating it any longer, or the animal is not eating it as much as it used to do. There are various reasons why this may happen.
- Teeth problems: Tooth pain in a rabbit will affect its willingness to consume its cecotropes or any other food for that matter.
- Obesity: Obesity is not good for any animal, and this is also the case with rabbits. An obese rabbit  would find it difficult to reach its bottom to eat cecotropes.
- Consumption of too much protein: If you feed your rabbit foods that contain too much protein, it may not want to eat its cecotropes.
- Injury and body pain: An injured rabbit will find it painful to move around, talk less of reaching around its butt to eat cecotropes.
- Illness: A rabbit that is ill will not eat its poop.
It is easy to know if your pet is eating its poop or not. You can check its enclosure. If you do not find cecotropes there or find only a small amount, then it is eating them. You can also check your pet’s butt. A clean butt shows that the pet is eating its feces.
Rabbits need to eat their poop if they are to utilize the nutrients in their food. If you see your rabbit eating its cecotropes, you shouldn’t discourage the animal from carrying out the act.
On the other hand, if your pet stops eating its poop, you should examine it to rule out any problems.
- House Rabbit Society [Link]