I was watching a bunny, he was sitting up, and seemed to be grooming his private parts. When his head came up it looked like he was chewing on something. After a couple minutes he hopped away and I could see what looked like a soft squishy poop, not all like regular bunny droppings.

Could he have been eating his own dropping? What was going on?

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Rabbits excrete two types of droppings, ordinary fecal waste matter, which are dried out pellets (fecal pellets) and cecotropes, which are not fecal matter and form moist grape like bunches. Cecotropes are predigested hay/food pellets for the rabbit to eat and further digest.

A rabbits digestive system has a two step process.

  • A rabbit requires a substantial proportion of hay and/or grass in their diet. This type of roughage is difficult to digest in any animal gut, and the rabbit's gut is highly specialized to process this in the cecum. Here the fibre is partially digested and the rabbit excretes this partially processed fibre as a specialized pellet called a cecotrope.

  • The rabbit then eats the cecotrope and the nutrients that were locked within (almost indigestible) hay or grass are absorbed by the rabbit's gut. This predigested matter is easier to process the second time around. Any waste produced by digesting the cecotrope is expelled as normal, inedible fecal matter, as is any waste products foods in the rabbit's diet that is easier to digest).

  • Rabbit's will usually feed on their cecotropes overnight, which is why some owners may not see them doing this.

  • Cecotropes are a good source of nutrition: vitamins, fatty acids and protein for rabbits (1). In fact, rabbits cannot survive without them.

The Scoop on Poop

The cecum contains a wild brew of bacteria and fungi that are normal and beneficial for the rabbit. In fact, the rabbit cannot live without them, since the cecal flora produces essential nutrients (e.g., fatty acids and vitamins) that the rabbit cannot produce on her own.

There is more detail about this in this post here Why is adding hay to a rabbit's diet important?


References:

San Diego House Rabbit Society
San Diego HRS sandiegorabbits.org

Rabbit Nutrition: What you Need to Know
University of California
Agriculture and Natural Resources PDF

Rabbit Care
The Small Mammals Health Series
Susan Brown, DVM
VeterinaryPartner.com

Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery
Book By Katherine Quesenberry, James W. Carpenter ISBN-9781416066217 (1) This book give great detail about the protein and other nutritional benefits of cecotropes.

Yes rabbits eat poop but it is a special kind of poop called a Cecotrope.

Unlike most other mammals, lagomorphs (including domestic rabbits) produce two types of droppings, fecal pellets (the round, dry ones you usually see in the litterbox) and cecotropes. The latter are produced in a region of the rabbit's digestive tract called the cecum, a blind-end pouch located at the junction of the small and large intestines. The cecum contains a natural community of bacteria and fungi that provide essential nutrients and may even protect the rabbit from potentially harmful pathogens.

A normal cecotrope resembles a dark brown mulberry, or tightly bunched grapes. It is composed of small, soft, shiny pellets, each coated with a layer of rubbery mucus, and pressed into an elongate mass. The cecotrope has a rather pungent odor, as it contains a large mass of beneficial cecal bacteria. When the bunny ingests the cecotrope, the mucus coat helps protect the bacteria as they pass through the stomach, then re-establish in the cecum. Source

So the rabbit needs these cecals to help keep the balance of its digestive tract. You may from time to time notice the occasional cecal in the rabbits litter. This is normal most rabbits will produce more Cecotropes than they need.

Some rabbits do so. Rabbits produce 2 types of feces, the harder pelleted feces normally found in a rabbit cage, and the soft, greenish, mucous covered feces. These softer feces are actually called cecotropes. The cecotropes usually won't be found in the cage, as the rabbit normally eats these as they are produced. As gross as it sounds, cecotropes are quite nutritious being high in some vitamins, etc. In fact, the production of cecotropes is a very important and significant part of the digestive system function of rabbits. Proper function of the digestive system (and a proper diet) will ensure that rabbits get optimal nutrition from their diet and the production of these cecotropes. Source : Is My Rabbit Supposed to Eat His Feces?

In addition to that, when an animal eats it poop they feel they need some essential nutrients they have lost due to pooping. So they eat it in order to gain back the nutrients.

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