What Rabbit Poop Tells You About Their Health


what you need to know about rabbit poop

Rabbits poop A LOT. That’s one of the first things you’ll learn as a new rabbit owner. Luckily, rabbit poop is not gross at all. Their poops are dry, scentless, cocoa puff balls. They are easy to clean, especially if your rabbit is litter box trained. Honestly, rabbit poop is probably the least-gross pet poop you will ever have to deal with.

Rabbit poop can tell you a lot about how healthy your rabbit is. Their health depends on the constant motion of their digestive system, so often illnesses can be detected early by changes in a rabbit’s pooping habits. You should make a habit of checking your rabbit’s poop for changes every day to keep track of your rabbit’s health.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the common and not-so-common types of rabbit poop you might encounter. We’ll go through a few potential illnesses you can detect by monitoring your rabbit’s poop and how to know when it’s time to go see your rabbit-savvy veterinarian.

The different types of poop you may see

To monitor your rabbits health through their poop, you’ll have to know what’s normal, and what to look out for. But also keep in mind that what you’re looking for in your rabbit’s poop is consistency. If you’re rabbit’s poops are the size of a sweet pea while other rabbits poops are the size of chickpea, that’s okay! As long as your rabbit’s poops are approximately the same size and color all the time, you don’t need to worry.

normal rabbit fecal pellets
Rabbit fecal pellets should be hard balls that are uniform in size and color.

Normal rabbit poop

Also known as fecal pellets, these normal rabbit poops should look very much like cocoa puffs. The exact size and color will vary a little bit, depending on the rabbit.

There is little correlation between the size of the rabbit and the size of their poop. Sometimes very small rabbits will produce fecal pellets that are bigger than the droppings of a 10 lb rabbit. So it’s important to become familiar with your own rabbit’s poop, so you can be very clear about what is normal for your rabbit.

The characteristics of healthy rabbit poop include:

  • Size: Healthy rabbit poop can range from about the size of a green pea to around the size of a chickpea (about 7mm – 12mm) in diameter. The poops should all be uniform in size. If there is any drastic difference in the size of the poops, that is cause for concern and an appointment should be made with your rabbit’s vet.
  • Shape: Rabbit poops should be consistent, little round balls. It’s possible that you’ll see some distortion in shape, especially during shedding season when there is extra fur being packed into the pellets. But if this is a frequent occurrence, it could be an indication of larger digestive issues. 
  • Color: The color of normal rabbit poops can range anywhere from a dark brown color to a more tan, wheat-colored poop. The key here, again, is consistency. As long as you’re rabbit’s poops are all a uniform color, you shouldn’t worry that the color seems a little light. If your rabbit has very dark poops, it might be an indication that they have a diet that’s too high in protein. But sometimes it just comes down to the rabbit’s specific digestion. I knew two rabbits who lived together and were on the exact same diet, but had drastically different colored poop.
  • Texture: Rabbit poop should be hard to the touch, and not at all mushy or squishy. If you put pressure again them in your fingers (or accidentally step on one) you might break one open. But the inside should look like dusty, digested hay (kind of like sawdust). It should not be squishy or have any of those typical poop-qualities you would expect of other animals.
  • Smell: Rabbit poop does not have a strong scent to the human nose. If there is a strong scent coming from your rabbit’s litter box, it is almost definitely the smell of their urine, and not their poop.
CECOTROPES
Cecotropes are little clusters of nutrient-packed soft pellets that rabbits reingest.

Cecotropes

Cecotropes are the other type of normal rabbit dropping. These are little clusters of nutrient-packed soft pellets. They are produced in the rabbits cecum, where natural bacteria and fungi live and transform the indigestible parts of a rabbit’s diet into this essential dietary item. Yes, that means rabbits need to eat their cecotropes to get all the nutrients they need from their food.

Usually rabbits will eat their cecotropes right out of their anus, so you won’t see very many lying around. But occasionally you might find some that your rabbit missed. If you start to see a lot of cecotropes, it may be time to look at your rabbit’s diet. Rabbits will overproduce cecotropes when they have too much sugar in their diet.

Cecotropes are also more often produced in the evenings, rather than all day long like normal rabbit poops. It used to be thought that rabbits would only produce cecotropes at night, but it turns out the timing of cecotrope production is largely dependent on the rabbit. Some produce most of their cecotropes at night, while others do in the morning.

  • Size: By themselves, cecotropes are very small, only a few millimeters in diameter, but you will often see them in groups or clusters. The clusters will often be one to two inches in length, but it’s not unusual to find only a few cecotropes together.
  • Shape: Usually you will see cecotropes clustered together in a berry-like structure. But they can also be seen as single cecotropes, or even just two or three of the droppings to a cluster.
  • Color: Cecotropes are a dark brown color. They will also have a little bit of a shine to them, since there is a thin mucus layer covering the cecotropes. These are much stickier than normal rabbit poop, so they may also have attracted a layer of rabbit fur or hay from the surroundings.
  • Texture: Cecotropes have a squishy and sticky texture. They can easily be mushed together and lose their shape. Most of the time, if you see something that looks like a smear of mushy poop, it really just a cecotrope that got stepped on.
  • Smell: If the thin membrane that surrounds the cecotropes is broken, they will smell. They will smell a lot. So if you all of a sudden smell a distinctly poop smell, look for a nearby squished cecotrope and offer it to your rabbit to eat.
linked rabbit poop
If your rabbit is ingesting a lot of fur, they may have poop linked together by strands.

Strung together

Sometimes rabbit poops will be strung together by fur to look like a string of pearls. This is a relatively common occurrence and you’re bound to notice it in your own rabbits poop on occasion. This is especially common with long haired breeds of rabbit, or during a big molting season, since rabbits will ingest more hair when they are shedding.

The poops that are strung together in these chains should still be uniform in size and color. They might be a little deformed in the places where the strand of hair pokes out to connect the next poop in the line, but otherwise they should still be well formed balls with a hard texture. If the spacing between the poops is also uniform, this is a good indication that your rabbit’s digestion is working just fine. So for the most part, this nothing to worry about.

If you are seeing a large amount of these strung together poops, though, you may want to consider taking more time to groom your rabbit. A large number of these pearls means that your rabbit is digesting a lot of hair. Since they cannot vomit, their digestive tract has to do a lot of work pushing the hair through the system. To avoid a potential hairball blockage, try brushing your rabbit once a day to keep them from ingesting so much fur. 

double impacted rabbit poop
If a rabbit’s gut slows down a little they may pass double or even triple fecal pellets fused together.

Double poops

A rabbit’s digestive tract will usually work very rhythmically and produce new poops at regular intervals. This is how rabbit poops are able to have such a uniform size and shape. Sometimes, however, the rabbits gut will slow down just a little and two, or even three, poops will collide into each other.

This will usually look like two otherwise normal poops have merged with each other. But sometimes, they’ll have merged so much, that the poop takes on an elongated oval shape. The color and texture should still be normal.

If you only see a few of these types of poops in a day, while the rest are perfectly normal, then you have no need to worry. It’s common for rabbits to get stressed by a sudden sound, causing their gut to temporarily slow down.

If you see a lot of these double poops, however, this is a sign that your rabbit’s gut is slowing down for longer periods of time. You’ll want to make an appointment with your vet so you can find the underlying cause of the slow down and stimulate their gut to move at a normal pace again.

small rabbit poop
Small rabbit poop is a sign that your rabbit is stressed or in pain.

Small poop

Very small poop is usually not a good sign in a rabbit. It means that something is stressing your rabbit out. It could be something in their environment, like a dog barking outside, or it could be a much more serious illness that’s causing them pain.

If your rabbit’s poop is all of a sudden small for a couple hours, but then bounces back to a normal size, your rabbit probably just got stressed out by something in their environment and they are doing better already. To be sure, check to make sure your rabbits appetite and behavior are also normal, since these can be other indicators of illness. But as long as your rabbit continues to produce normal poops, they are probably okay.

If the rabbit’s poops continue to be small and don’t return to normal within a couple hours, this is an indication that your rabbit is sick or in pain. You should get to a rabbit veterinarian as soon as you can, and continue to monitor your rabbits appetite and behavior for any possible illnesses.

deformed rabbit poop
A rabbit will have deformed poop if they are not eating enough or if they are recovering from surgery.

Deformed poop

Small deformed rabbit poop is usually a sign that you need to visit your rabbit’s vet. This happens when your rabbit is dehydrated, isn’t eating enough, or if there is a blockage in their gut and food is having trouble making its way through the digestive tract.

There can be any number of reasons that your rabbit is having trouble eating. Whether it be from overgrown teeth, excessive stress, or pain from an illness, deformed poop should be treated as a serious medical condition.

The only time that you should be happy to see these small misshapen rabbit poops is when they are recovering from surgery or a bout of GI stasis. In these cases the rabbit hasn’t been able to eat much lately, and seeing any poops at all is a sign that your rabbit is on the road to recovery.

cecal dysbiosis and true diarrhea
Cecal dysbiosis is unformed cecotropes and is usually caused by an unhealthy diet. True diarrhea is uncommon, but should be treated as an emergency situation.

Mushy cecotropes or diarrhea

There are two types of mushy rabbit stool. Cecal dysbiosis, which is unformed cecotropes, and true diarrhea, which is actual runny poops. The two types of mushy poop might be a little difficult to tell apart, but usually if it is the unformed cecotropes it will have a toothpaste-like texture, and they may still have some form to them.

Cecal dysbiosis is much more common and less dangerous in the short term. This happens when the gut bacteria get out of balance. These mushy or unformed cecotropes are a symptom of another underlying disease or stressor that needs to be addressed. It will smell pretty bad, and may stick to the rabbit’s butt to form a ball of poop over time.

The most common causes of cecal dysbiosis include:

  • A high sugar diet
  • A low fiber diet
  • Dental problems
  • Urinary tract disorders
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Obesity

True diarrhea is not common at all, but if your rabbit ever experiences it, they need to see the doctor right away. In adult rabbits, diarrhea is almost always caused by some sort of parasite or poison. True diarrhea is more common in baby rabbits who have been weaned too early. They don’t yet have the antibodies to protect themselves, and so their bodies can’t fight against any dangerous bacteria they come into contact with.

mucus in rabbit poop
You may find mucus in your rabbit’s poop when they are recovering from stasis.

Mucus covered poop

Though uncommon, it is possible you will find mucus in your rabbit’s poop. This most commonly occurs when a rabbit is going into or out-of GI stasis, since the gut bacteria is out of balance. It could also be an indication of parasites in your rabbits intestinal tract. Tapeworms or pinworms can sometimes even be seen on the excreted feces. You’ll want to bring a sample of this mucus-covered poop with you when you go to the vet so they can perform tests and find the cause.

Causes of abnormal poops

There are many possible causes of abnormal poop in rabbits. Some are less dangerous than others, but it’s all worth going to your rabbit-savvy veterinarian with a sample to get it tested. Your rabbit may have developed a serious illness that needs to be addressed.

The most common causes of abnormal poops include:

  • Unhealthy diet. A diet too high in sugar content (including sugary fruits and vegetables, and colorful pellet mixes) can cause a number of gastrointestinal difficulties. Rabbits may also suffer from a gastrointestinal illness if they don’t get enough fiber in their diets. For this reason, rabbits should always have unlimited access to grass-based hay.
  • Obesity. This is a dangerous condition for rabbits. The excess weight often causes a reluctance to move around and exercise. This often causes a slow-down of the gut, resulting in small or deformed poops. It also often causes mushy cecotropes that have a tendency to stick to the rabbit’s bottom.
  • Diseases. Because of rabbits’ sensitive digestive system, even illness that don’t seem to be related to digestion can affect the intestinal tract. Pain and even  stress can cause a rabbit to have small or abnormal poops.
  • Parasites. Parasites, such as tapeworms or pinworms, are likely to cause abnormal and runny poops.

If your rabbit is not pooping at all

If your rabbit is not pooping at all, or has not pooped for the last 12 hours, this is an emergency situation. Your rabbit may have developed GI stasis (gastrointestinal stasis), and if you do not get their digestion moving again quickly, this could be a fatal condition.

GI stasis is the condition that occurs when a rabbits gut slows down or comes to a complete halt. As the intestinal tract slows down, hair and food start to get stuck along the gastrointestinal tract, creating bigger blockages. And the gut bacteria will start to increase to dangerous numbers, creating painful gas in the rabbit’s gut.

Basically this means that the rabbit’s digestion isn’t working. The whole system has stopped. If the symptoms are caught early enough, it is very possible that your rabbit will recover. But if the rabbit does not receive help on time, this condition can be deadly.

This is probably the most important condition to be aware of, since it is often a symptom of many other illnesses in rabbits.

hunched rabbit position
A rabbit in a hunched position will use their front paws to keep from pressing their belly against the ground.

Symptoms

GI stasis is pretty common, so it’s important to learn the symptoms:

  • Not eating. If the rabbit hasn’t eaten in over 10 hours or refuses their favorite treat, this is cause for concern.
  • No poops or small malformed poops. In early stages of stasis, the rabbit’s poops will usually be small and malformed until eventually they are not pooping at all.
  • Diarrhea or mushy poops. Diarrhea in rabbits is never normal. If you ever notice this, that is a sign that something is wrong with their digestion.
  • Loud stomach gurgles, or no sound coming from the stomach at all. If you ever put your ear near your rabbit’s stomach, you’ll notice that there is almost always a quiet gurgling going on. If this gets really loud or disappears completely, it’s a sign of GI stasis.
  • Hunched posture. This is often the position that rabbits take when they are in pain, especially if that pain is coming from their gut. The position looks almost like a rabbit loaf. But instead the rabbit will be slightly up on their front paws, keeping their belly from pressing against the ground.
  • Lack of energy. If your rabbit is normally full of energy, but now they are just sitting and hesitant to move, this could mean your rabbit is experiencing stasis. 

Causes

GI stasis is often a symptom of some other underlying health problem. So after your rabbit recovers from their GI stasis episode, it’s important to check and see if there are any other issues that caused the gut problems. 

Causes of GI stasis include:

  • A high sugar diet. If a rabbit has too many treats, or even too many pellets it can cause an imbalance in the gut bacteria.
  • Lack of exercise. Exercise helps to keep a rabbit’s digestion moving. So if your rabbit just sits in their enclosure all day, their gut can slow down.
  • Pain from other injuries or illnesses. GI stasis is often a symptom of more serious conditions. If your rabbit is in pain, their gut will likely slow down.
  • Stress or fear. An anxious rabbit is also at risk of GI stasis.
  • Dehydration. If your rabbit doesn’t get enough fluids, the stomach will have trouble pushing food through the digestive tract.
  • Intestinal blockage. Sometimes food or another object that a rabbit ate can create a blockage in the digestive system.

Prevention

GI stasis is a really scary condition to deal with and it can sneak up very quickly. So we want to do what we can to prevent this condition:

  • Feed your rabbit unlimited hay. Hay is high in fiber and is essential to a rabbit’s healthy digestive system. Read more about a healthy diet for a rabbit.
  • Encourage your rabbit to stay hydrated. A water bowl is often easier for a rabbit to drink from than a bottle. You could also give leafy greens to your rabbit that still have the water from being rinsed.
  • Allow your rabbit to have lots of exercise. Make sure their enclosure is large enough and give your rabbit at least 2 hours a day of exercise in a larger space.
  • Regular vet visits. Schedule annual vet check-ups to make sure your rabbit is healthy.
  • Reduce stress. Making sure your rabbit doesn’t live in a noisy, scary environment can do a lot to prevent GI stasis. Indoor housing is generally much safer and less stressful for rabbits.
rabbit bottom check
Check your rabbit’s bottom to be sure it’s not dirty, so that it won’t attract any flies.

Poopy butt

Poopy butt is a condition that occurs when a rabbit is unable to keep their butt clean. Smushed cecal droppings will stick to the rabbits fur on their butt and form into a ball of poop over time. This condition is very smelly, and it’s uncomfortable for your rabbit.

In addition to being a little bit gross, it can be dangerous for a rabbit to remain in this condition. The feces and cecal matter stuck to the rabbit’s butt will attract flies. Your rabbit will be susceptible to the deadly fly strike

This happens when a fly chooses to lay eggs on your rabbit (usually around their bottom), and when the maggots hatch they start to eat through your rabbit. It’s a horrifying infestation and can lead to death within a 24-48 hour time period.

Causes

Poopy butt is caused when a rabbit is unable to clean themselves. This could mean the rabbit is obese and therefore cannot reach their behind to clean it. Elderly rabbits who have developed arthritis also tend to have trouble keeping their behind clean. And disabled rabbits that don’t have the mobility are also plagued with poopy butt.

Prevention

With a disables or elderly rabbit, occasional butt baths might be inevitable. You can help your rabbit out and make these baths less frequent if you do some spot cleaning regularly, to try to prevent the poop from building up.

With obese rabbits, the best thing you can do to help your rabbit stay clean is to get them on a healthy diet. Most of the time the problem is the amount of dry food pellets and treats rabbits are eating. 

Rabbits should be eating a mostly hay-based diet (such as timothy hay), and fresh leafy greens should make up the second largest portion of their diet. Rabbit’s should really only be having a small amount of pellets every day (about ¼ cup for an average sized rabbit), and sweet treats (including carrots) should only be given sparingly.

rabbit butt bath
If your rabbit has poopy butt, you might need to give them a butt bath. Make sure you hold your rabbit securely so only their back legs and butt get wet.

Butt baths

As a general rule, you should not bathe your rabbit. But if you’re dealing with a rabbit who has developed poopy butt, you might have no choice but to give them a butt bath. Check here for a detailed step-by-step of how to give your rabbit a butt bath.

This is a very tedious process that can take quite a while. If you’re going to give your rabbit a butt bath, I recommend finding a partner to help you keep the rabbit calm during the whole process. The basic steps include:

  1. Get a small bin and put a folded towel along the bottom.
  2. Fill the bin with a couple inches with warm water. 
  3. Gently pick your rabbit up and place their butt in the water.
  4. Swirl the water around and soak the soiled area around your rabbit’s butt.
  5. Use your fingers to gently pull the poop off of your rabbit’s butt.
  6. Remove your rabbit from the water and place them onto a towel.
  7. Gently pat the wet areas of your rabbit with the towel.
  8. With a hair dryer on the lowest heat setting, start to dry and fluff up the fur on your rabbit’s butt.
  9. Keep going until your rabbit is completely dry.
rabbit in a litter box next to a hay feeder
Tip: Moving the hay near the litter box can encourage your rabbit to use the litter box more.

Litter training a rabbit

Litter training your rabbit will make it a lot easier to keep track of your rabbit’s health. You’ll be able to see exactly how much they’re pooping. All the poop is in one place that you can easily clean out every day. This will help you stay on top of your rabbits health and catch any signs of sickness early.

A change in litter box habits can also be an indicator of health problems in rabbits. If they’ve been litter box trained and then suddenly stop using the litter box, this is an indicator that the rabbit is suffering from some illness or stressor. An important symptom you wouldn’t have if you never litter trained your rabbit.

Can you catch diseases from a rabbit’s poop?

For most people, there is no reason to be wary of rabbit poop. Parasites such as tapeworms and pinworms are host specific and won’t affect humans. Practicing basic personal hygiene by washing your hands after you come in contact with their feces is all you really need to do.

Some rabbit pee does contain a microorganism fungus called E. cuniculi. Many rabbits will be carriers of this and shed spores in their urine. While technically possible, infections from this for people with healthy immune systems is extremely rare. However, E. cuniculi could pose a risk to people with AIDS or otherwise compromised immune systems.

Rabbit poop as garden fertilizer

If you’re a gardener, rabbit poop is actually a great fertilizer. Rabbit droppings don’t harbor diseases like cat and dog feces might, so it’s safe to use even if you’re growing food. The droppings also have high levels of trace nutrients that you can add straight to your garden or your compost pile.

Sources:

  1. Harriman, Marinell. “Fly Strike.” House Rabbit Society, rabbit.org/journal/2-12/fly-strike.html.
  2. Kazacos, Kevin R. DVM Ph.D. “Just Ask the Expert: The Zoonotic Threat of Rabbits and Other Wild Animals.” Veterinary Medicine, Jul. 1, 2010, veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/just-ask-expert-zoonotic-threat-rabbits-and-other-wild-animals.
  3. Krempels, Dana Ph.D. “The Mystery Of Rabbit Poop.” House Rabbit Society, Jun. 10, 2011, rabbit.org/the-mystery-of-rabbit-poop.
  4. Praag, Esther van Ph.D. “Normal and Abnormal Fecal and Cecal Feces of Rabbits.” Medirabbit.com, www.medirabbit.com/EN/GI_diseases/drop/Drp_en.htm.
  5. Taylor, Christine Ph.D. “Guide to Bunny Poops.” Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, www.bunssb.org/bunnies/guide-bunny-poops.

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Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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