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I’ve lived with rabbits for so long that it’s so normal to me that rabbit’s eat their poop. I’m not above picking up cecotrophs (called Stinky Poos in our house) and putting them in my rabbit’s food bowl.
But, I imagine that if you’re new to rabbits it can be a bit unnerving to see them eat their poop off the floor, and even more so when they’re eating it directly from the own butt. Don’t worry! It’s all part of their charm!
Is it ok if rabbits eat their poop?
Yep. Not only is it ok, it’s what they do.
It’s like a grosser version of a cow chewing their cud, and is done for largely the same reason. It’s dangerous for a prey animal to take their time to eat in an exposed area. Better to bolt their food as quickly as they can and then go home and eat it again properly.
Grass doesn’t make it that far through a cow’s digestive system before the cow regurgitates it, and chews it again, further breaking down the starchy fibres (I don’t know if that’s what they are, but it’s good enough for this explanation).
A rabbit doesn’t have time to mess about with excess stomaches and regurgitating. Instead, they prefer to just eat the grass, have the grass experience the whole ride, and then repeat.
I like to think of it this way: the first time the cow eats the grass is like pre-rinsing the dishes before they go in the dishwasher. The chewing of the cud is like running the dishwasher.
Rabbits don’t bother with pre-washing and just run the dishwasher twice.
Do other animals do this?
Yes, but I don’t suggest you google it. Dogs eat their own poop for various reasons that they don’t share with us, as do apes like chimps and gorillas.
Poop eating is usually a sign that something’s wrong in other animals (it’s usually a sign of boredom, or lack of a certain nutrient), which is why it can be scary for new rabbit parents when their bunny starts eating their poop with every sign of enjoyment.
It seems that only lagomorphs (bunnies, hares, and pikas) are the only animals that have a digestive system designed in such a way that they have to eat their own poop BUT some large herbivores (elephants, hippos, etc) have to eat a parent’s poop when they’re very young in order to get their gut bacteria primed and ready to eat all that vegetation. Gross.
Rabbits don’t eat ALL their poops, by the way. That may seem like a perfect pet (one that self-sustains with their own poop), but the dry, round poops are devoid of nutrients and ignored (though the odd ones will be eaten).
The poops that they eat are dark, shiny, and smell. They also come out in a little cluster, like cursed grapes.
They’re gross, and I wouldn’t recommend standing on them in bare feet, especially since your bunny will be so mad that you trod on their delicious, nutritious treat that they made themselves.
The poops they don’t eat are dry, round, and usually break apart easily (depending on how much hay they’ve been eating). Ideally they should be golden, but it does vary depending on the hay they’re eating.
What to do if your rabbit isn’t eating their cecotrophs
Step one is too pick them up with kitchen towel and offer them to your rabbit. Sometimes they eay they, sometimes they look at you like you’ve gone insane.
Step two is to check their diet. Are they eating plenty of hay and veggies and relatively little pellets? Excess cecotrophs can point to digestives issues.
If your rabbit is still eating well and otherwise happy, I’d try cutting down on pellets and sugary foods and sticking to a diet of hay and veggies (romaine lettuce is good). If the situation doesn’t improve, then it’s time for the vet.
How to deal with poopy butt syndrome
Poopy butt syndrome is often seen in overweight rabbits that can’t reach to clean their butts.
I would cut out pellets completely for a few months and really push hay. It can take a while to get the excess bacteria from the gut, and pellets often use molasses as a binding agent that can exacerbate the problem.
Your rabbit can still have veggies, but be sure to introduce new ones slowly and make a note of any that seem to make poopy butt worse.
I’ve had to do this with two of my rabbits, and with one it worked a treat. The only issue we had was when we reintroduced pellets, she became a pellet monster. We only gave her a couple of spoonfuls but she was always waiting by her bowl for them, and practically inhaled them.
The other one just had perpetual poopy butt. We think it was to do with her breed, which was some kind of giant X. Rabbits that are bred for meat have a hard time losing weight (since they’re bred to keep it on) and even though she only got pellets for an occasional treat, she couldn’t lose enough weight to stop oopy butt completely.
Luckily, she was an absolute sweetie, and didn’t mind regular butt baths.
Rabbits eat their poop because that’s the way they were made. Is it gross? Yes. Is it healthy and natural? Yes.
A lot of rabbits eat their poop without making a big song and dance about it, so it’s really not something you need to concern yourself with.