Rabbits have a very specialised digestive tract. In order to get all the nutrients, they need from a diet which is grass/hay based, the digestive tract is long and complicated, and some food even goes through twice!
Inside the gut, fibre is sorted into digestible and indigestible fibre. Indigestible fibre is really important for gut and dental health, but doesn’t provide a lot of nutrition. This indigestible fibre is sorted from the food very quickly, and passed out as hard, dry droppings.
Digestible fibre, which does provide nutrition, is kept in a special part of the digestive tract called the caecum. Here, the digestible fibre is fermented by good bacteria, and this provides energy and nutrients for your rabbit!
Despite the best efforts of the caecum, some of the nutrition found in fibrous food is well protected by thick cell walls. These get partly broken down the first time they pass through your rabbit’s digestive system. To save these nutrients, partly-digested food, as well as good bacteria and vitamins that come from the caecum, is packaged into specialist droppings called ‘caecotrophs’. These droppings are then eaten as they emerge, and this is completely normal.
Keep an eye on your rabbit’s droppings as they are a good indicator of health. If your rabbit produces fewer droppings than normal, and these seem either drier or abnormally shaped, it’s time to get in touch with your vet. Diarrhoea, or a build-up of sticky caecotrophs around your rabbit’s back end, are both also abnormal and your rabbit should be checked over by your local Vets4Pets.