Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Poop? Surprising Facts To Learn!

I know you’re here because you’re confused and shocked; why do rabbits eat their poop. 

Quite gross, right? But, it’s not really something to worry about. It looks disgusting for us humans, seeing them eat their poops, but this is actually a part of them. 

Do you know why they do that? 

It’s essential for their digestive process. You read it right! Rabbits do eat their poops because they need to. 

As you have learned in some other articles I’ve written, a rabbit’s digestive system is very sensitive. It is not capable of extracting the entire nutrients from food when they initially digest it. 

 

Cecotropes And Droppings

During digestion, cecotropes establish; these are soft pellets composed of nutrients, such as fiber and protein, vital for your pet’s growth. 

In order to extract the said nutrients, your pet will definitely eat its cecotropes. And this process is accomplished by digesting these for the second time. 

Normally, a rabbit’s dropping is odorless, crumbly, and dry. On the other hand, cecotropes are sticky, intense, and soft. 

Here’s what shocking!

Rabbits eat these “things” from their anus. That means that they directly eat these. 

Let me share one unforgettable experience with my pet, Thumper. I was not aware of this fact at first. I was curious why he doesn’t have any remains in his hutch.

Sometimes, there are poops, but only a few. I thought there’s something wrong with him. When I came to see him, I witnessed how he does eat- eating “something” from his anus. EUW!

This is the reason why you won’t find a lot of these “things” in your pet’s hutch. 

Anyway, if you’re not into poops, I mean, if you find it gross, make sure that you clean its hutch regularly. Get a high-quality, easy-to-clean hutch for rabbits

There’s more that you should know about cecotropes; just read on!

 

A Rabbit’s Digestive System: Here’s How It Works

You are already aware that hay is the usual composition of a rabbit’s diet. Hay is high in fiber, yet it doesn’t have a lot of calories or other nutrients. 

That explains why they constantly graze on hay (without any problem). Rabbits need to do so to get the right amount of nutrients their body needs. 

It is worth noting, though, that high-calorie foods are not good for your pet. 

Anyway, hay is composed of fiber, a necessary nutrient for your pet’s diet. But, this makes it hard for it to digest the said food. 

It’s never easy for rabbits to extract nutrients, especially from fibrous plants. 

So, they need some ways to digest these plants easily; this could explain why rabbits eat their poop. 

The process is known as hindgut fermentation. And this is also practiced by other animals such as pikas and hares. 

 

The Process Of Eating Poops In Rabbits

As your pet digests food, it breaks down in its stomach with the help of stomach acid and enzymes. It travels further into the small intestines, where digestion continues. 

Unfortunately, these parts (stomach and small intestines) do not efficiently function when extracting all the nutrients found in plant materials. 

Just come to imagine the remains are left in large quantities after these parts have finished their jobs. 

So, they need to pass through the large intestine. Here, undigested materials are grouped into two- indigestible fiber and others. Others are those that still contain nutrients like soluble fiber and protein. 

The first one is any indigestible material that is squeezed dry, forming round pellets, which are then excreted. Well, this “thing” is what you usually see in your pet’s hutch. And it’s a normal dropping of rabbits. 

On the other hand, the matter that requires further digestion travel to the cecum. Here you can find billions of bacteria responsible for fermenting, breaking, and eating away these materials, thus called hindgut fermentation. 

So, why do rabbits eat their poop?

Here’s the important thing to remember:

Some can be reabsorbed by your pet’s body, while others cannot. The leftover matter containing necessary nutrients is then formed into pellets. And Cha-ran! You have cecotropes

These cecotropes are then excreted in the rectum. Now, you know, it’s no longer EUWyyy, right?

Yes, these may look like feces, but rabbits don’t consider these as waste products. In fact, they are very crucial as they are your pet’s food source. 

And it’s not really something you should feel disgusted about. In the first place, once these cecotropes come out from their rectum, they immediately reingest these; this is known as coprophagy or cecotrophy. 

Then again, your pet digests these, and they’re broken down, extracting more and more nutrients. 

 

How Does My Pet Know Which Poop To Eat?

Most of the time, you won’t be seeing any cecotropes in your pet’s hutch. As mentioned earlier, they directly eat these from the time they come out. 

Sometimes, you think that your pet is just grooming its anal; it actually is eating its poops. 

And here’s a funny fact:

Rabbits eat the whole cecotropes, not in part. It’s what they normally do. 

Also, take note that you will never see your pet eat its fecal pellets. It knows which is which. 

In one article, I’ve discussed how smart rabbits are. Perhaps, this could explain why they understand which poop to eat. 

They already know the difference between normal pellets and cecotropes without even examining their poop. 

How is it possible? 

There’s a neurological signal sent to your pet’s brain when its rectum excretes cecotropes.

Such a signal informs your pet that the poop is on its way, and it’s already rabbits’ instinct to consume it.

 

Why My Pet Doesn’t Eat Its Poop?

Whenever rabbits produce cecotropes, they normally should eat these. These “things” are too vital for them that it’s nearly impractical to waste them. 

One study showed that cecotropes’ ingestion aids in balancing the natural gut flora of rabbits. 

Through this, healthy microorganisms for your pet into the cecum can ensure hindgut fermentation, necessary for its digestion. 

Take note of this:

It’s rare to see cecotropes in your pet’s hutch. Seeing an excessive amount of these things is never normal. 

In case it happens, you should understand that it may be due to some serious concerns such as the following:

  • Dental issues
  • Obesity
  • Injury or arthritis
  • Excess protein intake
  • Stress

 

Conclusion

There are more things that you should learn about why do rabbits eat their poop. 

But that’s all for this article. We hope that you’ve learned a lot. 

Here’s the important message, to summarize things:

It’s pretty normal for your pet to eat its poop, the cecotropes, not the normal droppings. 

They know which is which; your pet is a very smart animal. 

Don’t stop them from eating cecotropes; these are essential nutrients they need to consume. 

In case they stopped eating one, it may be a cause of concern. 

Now, you know! 

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