What to Do If Your Rabbit Isn’t Eating Cecotropes
Rabbits have this peculiar habit. They eat their poop. Sounds gross, right? But there’s an excellent reason why they do so. Also, they don’t consume all their droppings. Instead, they only go for the type called cecotropes. Long-time bun parents know how important this poop is to their pets’ well-being. So they worry when their rabbits are not eating their cecotropes.
What’s so special about cecotropes anyway, and why should you be concerned if your bun leaves them out of his diet? Well, read on and find out.
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What Are Cecotropes?
Rabbits produce two kinds of droppings. One type is round, dry, and crumbly, which they make mostly during the day. The other kind, called cecotropes, is softer and stickier than their regular poop. This is typically produced at night (that’s why they are also called night feces), although some buns also excrete it late in the morning or afternoon. You may not even see the cecotropes, as rabbits often consume these immediately after the droppings come out of their anus.
Why Do Rabbits Eat Cecotropes?
Being herbivores, rabbits eat primarily plants and grasses. However, these hard and fibrous food materials aren’t the easiest to digest. So even after their meal passes through their digestive system, it still contains valuable nutrients. Buns eat their poop and digest it a second time to extract the extra nourishment left in the cecotropes.
This special digestion process is called hindgut fermentation, where food material that can still be digested goes into the cecum, a pouch that’s part of the large intestine. Bacteria in the cecum eat away at the food, fermenting it and breaking it down further. Some food material that still contains nutrients is ejected as cecotropes.
This type of poop provides buns with vitamin K, vitamin B12, protein, and fiber, which are essential to rabbits. They lose out on these valuable nutrients if they don’t eat their cecotropes.
Signs That Your Rabbit Is Eating Cecotropes
We mentioned that it’s likely you won’t see the cecotropes your bun produces as they’re eaten almost as soon as they exit from the anus. However, you can tell if your pet is consuming the special droppings by doing the following.
- Check your rabbit’s litter box and cage floor: Regular rabbit droppings are round and dry. If these are the type you see on the litter box or cage floor, the chances are high that your bun is eating his cecotropes.
- Look at your bun’s behind: Even though cecotropes are soft and sticky, they don’t usually cling to the fur because rabbits consume them as they exit the body. Seeing soft, sticky poop on your pet’s behind is a sign that he’s not eating the cecotropes he produces.
- Watch your bun during certain times: Rabbits normally eject the special type of droppings early in the morning or late at night. Try checking on your pet during those times to see if he’s cleaning his hind section or licking below his tail. This is a sign that he’s eating or has just eaten his cecotropes.
Why Is My Rabbit Not Eating Cecotropes?
Buns instinctively know that they should eat this unique type of droppings. So you should hardly ever find cecotropes in your rabbit’s cage or litter box. Seeing a few of these is okay, but if you notice an excessive amount, this may be a cause for concern and could mean your bun has stopped eating his cecotropes.
There are several reasons why rabbits suddenly cease eating their poop.
A rabbit has to bend his body to get the cecotropes as they exit the opening. An overweight bun may be unable to reach down and take the droppings because his abdomen is in the way. A fatty skin fold may even prevent access to his anus.
Your bun’s teeth are perpetually growing and must be worn down through chewing. If those pearly whites get too long, he won’t be able to eat his cecotropes. This is a serious problem as it can lead to other health issues, such as gut stasis. Also, if your rabbit is experiencing tooth pain, he could also stop eating other foods. As such, he won’t have any food material to digest and excrete as cecotropes.
Arthritis or Other Injuries
Because they’re prey animals, rabbits often hide signs of illness or injuries to avoid becoming targets for predators. So your bun could have arthritis without you knowing. Observe your bun. If he has a dirty behind or has to scoot around to eat cecotropes on his cage floor, he may be experiencing pain from arthritis or other injuries. A painful or stiff joint will prevent him from reaching the cecotropes as they emerge from his body.
Not Enough Hay in the Diet
Rabbits thrive on a diet rich in fiber. That’s why hay or grass should comprise about 80% of their food intake. Tough and fibrous plant material keeps their digestive system healthy and helps them produce cecotropes with the appropriate consistency.
Overfeeding with Pellets
Adult rabbits can thrive without pellets in their diet. That’s as long as they get enough hay and leafy greens to round up their nutrition. However, you can still offer pellets to your bun. Just make sure you don’t give too much. Otherwise, your pet won’t be hungry enough to eat his cecotropes, causing him to lose out on some vital nutrients.
Too Many Treats or Sweet Foods
Too many treats or sweet foods can put extra pounds on your bun, which might hamper his ability to reach his cecotropes. Moreover, it could reduce his appetite for the food rabbits need, such as hay, leafy greens, and veggies. Take note that fruits, such as apples and grapes, are high in sugar. Thus, they should be counted as treats and given sparingly. The same goes for carrots, which we often consider a good food for rabbits.
Stress or anxiety can decrease your bun’s appetite, not just for cecotropes but for other foods as well. Check your pet’s living environment and observe his behavior. If he’s always curled up in one corner, looks nervous, or is unusually aggressive, something might be off. Remember that as prey animals, buns are instinctively fearful. So real or perceived danger can be behind their unwillingness to consume their cecotropes.
Sick rabbits tend to lose their appetites. If your bun doesn’t feel well, you might find extra cecotropes in his cage. Or he may even stop pooping altogether. Other signs of illness include tooth-grinding, lethargy, hiding away, and slow movement. Rabbits can’t go long without food. Consider it an emergency and take your pet to the vet if he hasn’t eaten in a few hours.
What Should I Do If My Rabbit Is Not Eating Cecotropes?
Addressing the reasons we mentioned can prompt your bun to consume his cecotropes. If you’re feeding him pellets, reduce the portion to around 1/8 to 1/4 per pound of rabbit. Also, increase the amount of hay you offer. Provide other hay types if he’s gotten tired of his usual variety. This will boost his fiber intake and could get his digestive system back on track.
As disgusting as it may seem, rabbits enjoy eating their cecotropes. So instead of stopping your bun from consuming his poop, you should encourage the habit. In fact, not eating cecotropes is a warning that something’s amiss, and you should observe your fur baby to determine if he needs medical attention.
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