If you’re a keen rabbit owner, you may have observed your bunny ingesting its poop. While it may have disgusted you, you shouldn’t be surprised. Coprophagy (technical term) is Eating dung or fecal matter and is very typical of bunnies. Actually, rabbits engage in this kind of behavior to aid the process of digestion.
But why do rabbits have to eat their own poop? Well, when rabbits eat their food the first time, their systems do not extract all the vitamins and minerals. When the systems complete the first-time digestion, they give out cecotropes (soft pellets). These are usually a mix of fecal matter plus valuable nutrients. So, rabbits go for those nutritional goodies, meaning that their systems break down the pellets again.
And how do you differentiate between the cecotropes and droppings? Well, cecotropes have a pungent smell and are soft-sticky to the touch. On the flip side, normal bunny droppings do not smell and are dry-crumbly. And you will rarely see cecotropes because they are eaten as soon as they pop out of the anus.
Now, let’s get the ins and outs of rabbits and their poop-eating ventures by answering some crucial questions.
Rabbits And Eating Poop
How Does My Bunny Know The Poop It Eats?
As teased in the introductory section, you are unlikely to find many soft pellets where your rabbit stays. When you think your rabbit is taking care of its anal region, it may be eating the cecotropes. Sometimes, the bunny does not wait for them to touch the ground; once they emerge, it ingests them whole.
But you wouldn’t see a bunny eating its droppings in the same style. This is because the droppings have zero value, and ingesting them would be a waste of time.
To answer the question, I would say that the power of differentiating is instinctual and involves the brain. When the cecotropes are building up behind the anus, the bunny’s brain communicates to the rabbit about the incoming goodies. Then, *expletive* happens (If you get this, talk to me in the comment section).
Rabbit Poop Versus Cecotropes
On The One Hand: Rabbit Poop
Bunny droppings are like tiny balls – round, and they each fall on their own. And size? Well, they can be anything between a chickpea and a pea. In terms of color, we are talking of medium brown because they are made of hay. But the color can be green if your bunny feeds on fresh grass every day.
And how do they feel? The droppings are pretty dry, and slight pressure can make them crumble. When they break open, you will see fiber/hay texture. And they don’t smell – for humans. Since rabbits have a sharper sense of smell, they will pick out a mild scent.
On The Other: Cecotropes
Cecotropes are smaller than bunny droppings, about half their size. And their shape – they are not as rounded as rabbit droppings. When a bunny expels them, they fall as a unit, you know, sticking together. Have you seen a raspberry before? If yes, you’ve seen something close to a bunch of cecotropes.
In terms of colors, these soft pellets are dark brown. And texture? They are squishy and soft since they have a mucus covering. Lastly, they smell. So, when you pick some droppings and find that their scent pricks, you could be handling cecotropes.
When A Rabbit Does Not Eat Cecotropes, Could There Be Something Wrong?
This is a rare phenomenon because bunnies do not let any of their cecotropes fall off. They eat almost all of them because of their nutritional content. I mean, it would be a waste to let the pellets go without getting them back into their system.
But what if you suddenly notice that the cage has too many cecotropes? Well, you should be concerned because that is unusual. The following table captures some reasons and explanations why the soft pellets could be in plenty:
|Obesity||When a rabbit becomes overweight, it may develop trouble reaching its anus to collect the pellets.|
|Illness or injury||If the bunny’s joints are stiff and painful, there will be a clear restriction of movement to pick the pellets.|
|Dental and tooth issues||Conditions like malocclusion and injuries in the mouth may restrict the bunny from turning to its anal area.|
|Stress||Noise and intimidation are stresses likely to make a bunny look away from its pellets.|
|Too much protein||As we have already established, cecotropes are rich in protein. But if you supply them with dietary protein, they won’t see the need to eat from the sticky items.|
When A Rabbit Eats Poop, Could There Be A Problem?
Bunnies are only supposed to eat cecotropes, not the dry droppings. When a rabbit eats its poop, we can call that a coprophagy abnormality. This is because the droppings only have water and indigestible fiber: two non-beneficial items.
Once you discover that the bunny eats poop and not the soft pellets, you should look at the diet. Rabbit poop has fiber, and that’s maybe what the bunny is going for. Are you giving the dog enough fiber? Check your doings.
If you can, increase the amount of grass that the bunny has access to. And if anything, provide fresh hay every morning to ensure that the supply does not end. Alternatively, you can go for hay pellets as they are more attractive because of their high-calorie content.
On the same dietary note, ensure that the bunny eats fruits and leafy greens. Make a fruit-veggie salad for them using dandelion leaves, parsley, cilantro, and arugula. That combination should pull the bunny away from eating its poop.
Some sources say that the poop-eating could be out of boredom. To eliminate that option, ensure that you give the bunny plenty of chew toys. You may need to pull them out of the poop-eating until they unlearn the behavior.
So, why do rabbits eat their own poop? Well, it all depends on what you mean by poop. If the rabbit is eating cecotropes, it is only making a nutritional move. Those soft pellets are essential because they have fiber and proteins to help the bunny’s digestive system.
If the rabbit eats poop-poop, well, that’s serious. Like the last portion suggests, you will need to provide more fiber and more toys, whichever works.