Picture this…you are heading out to visit your new bunny and you catch your furry friend doing something so seemingly disgusting that you want to scold him away from doing such an awful thing. He’s eating his poop!
Don’t worry–this is a normal thing for your rabbit. What he is eating is not poop, however, it is a special food that rabbits make for themselves, called cecotropes.
First, the difference.
There are two types of droppings that your rabbit will create on a daily basis, fecal pellets and cecotropes, or cecal pellets. Fecal pellets are their normal droppings, what we would call poop, and they are spherical and dry. Cecal pellets, however, are much different in shape and consistency. They resemble a small, black cluster of grapes, are quite shiny, and unlike fecal pellets, a bit gooey if broken apart.
What are cecotropes?
Cecotropes are a nutrient-dense, vital part of your rabbit’s nutrition. They contain all of the nutrients and vitamins that were not absorbed by your rabbit’s body in the first pass-through, which makes them an important component to your rabbit’s diet. They are highly necessary to your rabbit’s nutrition because they have essential nutrients (like fatty acids and vitamins) that a rabbit’s body cannot produce on its own. They pass through the system and out the anus, which is what makes it appear that our furry friends are eating their own droppings.
Ensuring your rabbit eats his cecotropes
Now that you know what you are looking at when you discover those funny little “poops” in your rabbit’s hutch tray, you might wonder if your rabbit is eating them at all. Finding multiple clusters of cecotropes in the tray is normal, as their bodies seem to manufacture much more than they need. It is in your rabbits genes to eat them, and they will do it on their own without our intervention.
Having said that, there are a couple of ways that we can make the process much easier for our bunnies.
- Feed them properly. Make sure that you are only giving your rabbit the recommended amounts of feed for her size and weight. Feeding too much or continuously will result in an overweight rabbit that cannot groom herself, let alone reach her cecal pellets to consume them.
- Add hay to his hutch. Adding a thin layer of hay will give your bunny a better chance to consume his cecal pellets by creating a situation where the pellets cannot easily fall through the wire flooring.
So as you can see, there is nothing to be alarmed about when your rabbit appears to be dining on his own droppings. It is the natural way of things and is actually a reason to feel encouraged–your rabbit is doing everything right!
Source and for further reading:
The Scoop on Poop – San Diego HRS