Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Own Poop? (2 Reasons for this Behavior)

While the idea of ​​eating feces may seem repulsive to most (hopefully all) humans, it’s actually a very common practice in the animal kingdom. It’s so common, there’s even a term for eating poop. Coprophagia is defined as eating feces, and it is a habit shared by many creatures, including rabbits, mice, otters, dogs, hippos, elephants, and even non-human primates such as gorillas and orangutans.

Of course, none of these critters eat poop for fun, and we doubt that’s because they like the taste. On the other hand, dung has the nutritional benefits when eaten that these animals need. Eating dirt doesn’t make them dirty creatures. In fact, many are very hygienic, including rabbits. They only eat feces for the nutritional value they provide.


Cecotropes – Special Edible Stools

It’s important to understand that rabbits don’t just eat the droppings they find. They only eat a special type of feces they produce at night known as cecotropes. This poop is soft and sticky, not the tiny pellets you usually see. You will rarely see cecotropes because rabbits eat them when they are out of the body. If you notice your rabbit’s cecotropes aren’t being eaten, chances are your rabbit is sick.

During the day, your rabbit will defecate multiple times, excreting large amounts of small, hard pellets. This is not a cecotrope. Cecotropes are made only at night. Nutrients are fermented in a special part of the rabbit’s intestinal tract called the cecum, which then produces cecotropes.

What Nutritional Value Does Stool Provide?

Your rabbit’s normal droppings that pass throughout the day don’t provide any nutritional value, which is why you don’t see your rabbit eating it. However, the cecotropes your rabbit excretes at night are loaded with essential nutrients.

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Rabbits are herbivores. They strictly eat the plant material they eat. Plant material is very dense and loaded with fiber, making it difficult to digest. Because of this, much of the plant material passes through your rabbit without being fully digested.

To avoid wasting all these nutrients, the rabbit swallows it back through its cecotrope. This allows their bodies a second chance to digest the fibrous plant material. The second pass is much easier because the plant material has been broken down to some degree and is now easier to digest.

The second reason for this additional digestive process is to ensure the rabbit’s digestion runs smoothly. Since rabbits cannot vomit, this process must continue without a hitch, as the rabbit will most likely die if anything gets stuck in its digestive tract.

two rabbits eat

Should You Stop Your Rabbit From Eating Their Poop?

Absolutely not! Eating the cecotrope is very important for your rabbit’s health. If you happen to find that your rabbit is not eating the cecotrope, then you need to worry. Your rabbit needs the nutrients contained in cecotropes that can only be digested a second time. Indeed, this applies only to cecotropes. If your rabbit eats some of the tough droppings it produces during the day, then you should stop it and call your vet as there may be an underlying issue to consider. But you shouldn’t stop your rabbit from eating the cecotropes it produces at night.

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To us, the idea of ​​eating poop is disgusting. But for your rabbit, it’s an important health practice. However, your rabbit should not eat litter carelessly. It can only get the nutritional benefits it needs from the special cecotropes it produces at night. If you find this soft and sticky droppings in your rabbit’s cage, it’s a sign that something is wrong as your rabbit cannot meet its nutritional needs without consuming these cecotropes.

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Featured Image Credit: TM McCarthy, Shutterstock