When I first spotted my bunny eating his droppings, my first thought was, "Am I feeding him enough?" My second thought was, "That's so weird and gross!" After having major bad bunny-mom guilt issues, I resorted to my trusty source for an answer to why bunnies eat their poop — aka, I googled it.
Turns out rabbits eating their poop is normal and completely healthy behavior. Well, at least for them. To confirm the theories I found via my own research, I spoke with Anthony Hall, DVM, MPH, expert veterinarian at Airvet, and Joel Beth Navratik, DVM, CEO of MRVL Pet Pharmaceuticals.
Rabbits produce two types of droppings: fecal pellets and cecotropes, also known as cecal pellets; the latter are normal waste products that can be consumed after elimination. "Fecal pellets are normally dry and round pellets that are friable and full of undigested fiber while cecotropes have a more moistened appearance and may be clustered together, resembling a bunch of grapes or blackberry," Dr. Hall explained.
So it turns out, some of the clumps you might see in your rabbit's pen are actually not feces at all, they are a special food bunnies make exclusively for their own consumption — talk about a VIP diet. But don't worry if you don't actually see cecotropes lying around the litter pen. "Rabbits will consume cecotropes at any point during the day, usually around the same time if they have a regular schedule, and most do it in privacy," Dr. Hall told POPSUGAR. "The cecotropes are typically eaten as they are passed from the anus, so you shouldn't really see them laying about."
There are occasions when you'll find cecotropes in the litter pen, however. "Healthy rabbits consume all their cecotropes," Dr. Navratik told POPSUGAR. "However, consumption can be influenced by the rabbit's diet. For example, a protein-rich diet (such as one high in alfalfa) may result in a rabbit ingesting fewer cecotropes; thus, you may find them in the litter box along with regular feces."
However repelling it might be to humans (cecotropes can have a rather pungent odor), it's important that rabbits consume them as they are a primary source of nutrition for your furry best friend. Similar to the way probiotics help humans restore good gut bacteria, cecal pellets have a large mass of cecal bacteria and fungi that are beneficial for your rabbit — so much so that they can't live without it! In addition to their own VIP food, make sure your bunny is eating the right stuff. "A typical adult rabbit diet should contain 80-90 percent of a high-fiber, low-calorie hay, 10-15 percent of a high-fiber pellet that is nutritionally sound, and 5-15 percent green veggies that contain essential vitamins and minerals," Dr. Hall said. A diet consisting of only commercial pellets will often lead to overeating, diarrhea and obesity, added Dr. Navratik.
The next time you spot your rabbit eating her cecotropes, add it on to the list of weirdly entertaining things rabbits do — right after sleeping with their eyes open and teeth that are growing 24/7. No matter what bunnies do, their behavior is endlessly fascinating, full of surprises, and always catalyst for a good laugh.