If you have a rabbit at home, you’re probably very familiar with those little brown ‘cocoa puffs’ that they leave lying around. It might seem like bunnies are just little, fuzzy poop factories. All they do is eat and poop all day long. But did you know that a rabbit’s ability to produce so much poop is actually essential to their health?
Why do rabbits poop so much? Rabbits poop excessively because they have a unique digestive system. Rabbit health relies on the continued movement of their digestive tract so they can quickly extract energy from their diet. This means that rabbits must continue eating and subsequently pooping a lot to maintain a healthy and steadily moving digestive system.
Understandably, a rabbit’s gastrointestinal system can easily be thrown off track. If they don’t eat enough or get too stressed out, their digestive tract will slow down or even stop. This puts the rabbit in a life threatening situation. Let’s dive a little deeper into a rabbit’s digestion, so we can learn how to make sure our rabbits’ guts stay balanced and healthy.
Rabbits have a unique and sensitive digestive system. This results in a rabbit’s ability to digest and extract nutrients from a high-fiber diet. A diet that is not digestible by most other species. They do this by, essentially, digesting their food twice. The first time through, the food is sorted into digestible components and indigestible fiber by their colon.
The indigestible fiber carries on through the system to become those ‘cocoa puff’ poops that we’re all familiar with. They keep the rabbit’s digestive system moving along and are essential to the overall health of the rabbit (this is why a high fiber diet with a lot of hay is so important). The digestible components are fermented in the rabbit’s caecum and are eventually formed into cecotropes. The rabbit will need to eat these cecotropes and redigest them to gain all the proteins and nutrients that are available in their food.
How much do rabbits poop?
Not all rabbits poop the same amount every day, since rabbits come in so many different sizes. However, you can usually expect to find somewhere around 200-300 poops a day. The amount that they poop is, understandably, proportional to how much food they eat. A larger rabbit that needs to eat more food will also end up pooping more.
How frequently do rabbits poop?
There is a funny myth out there that rabbits can’t control their dropping at all. The idea is that a rabbit will walk around continually leaving dropping in a trail behind them. This myth probably came about because rabbits do leave droppings scattered around. This is one way they claim their territory, but it’s not as frequent as the myth makes it sound. Once a rabbit has been spayed or neutered, this behavior will often disappear completely.
Instead, rabbits will usually poop a number of hours after they have eaten. Studies have shown that larger particles of food, such as chewed up hay, will pass through their digestive tract much faster than smaller particles, such as chewed up pellets. You can expect that if the rabbit eats a large amount of hay in the morning, they will produce a large amount of fecal poops around 5 hours later, while the cecotropes will take much longer to be ready for redigestion.
How to deal with all the poop!
We’ve confirmed that it’s common and healthy for rabbits to poop a lot. That doesn’t mean it’s pleasant to find little poop balls all around the house. While rabbit poop is not very smelly or even gross, it can still find its way to unwanted places. Luckily there are some easy steps you can take to keep the poop problem under control.
Litter train your rabbit
The most effective thing you can do to keep your rabbit’s poop in check is to litter train them. This keeps all their poop in one place. All you have to do is scoop out the litter box every day.
Litter training a rabbit may seem like a daunting task, but most rabbits are very clean and quick to pick up the habit. Like cats, rabbits will usually prefer to keep their bathroom in one place. You just need to help them learn to make the association between the litter box and their bathroom.
Get your rabbit spayed or neutered
Getting a rabbit spayed or neutered will help with a number of health and behavioral problems. An altered rabbit is much less likely to spray urine around the house, and they are less likely to scatter their poops around to claim their territory.
This decrease in territorial behavior will also improve your rabbit’s litter training skills. If you are having trouble training your rabbit to use a litter box, the first step to take is bringing your rabbit to the vet to get them spayed or neutered.
Use an easy to clean enclosure
The other way to keep poop from getting everywhere is by cleaning your rabbits enclosure more often. This can be a pain with some cages. You almost have to disassemble some cages in order to get them properly cleaned. This is one of the reasons I recommend using a rabbit playpen as a primary enclosure. It is very easy to move the gates aside and vacuum up any mess.
Why you should keep track of your rabbit’s poop
It’s important to keep an eye on your rabbit’s dropping on a daily basis. A change in the amount, size, and shape of a rabbit’s poop can tell you a lot about the state of their health. Even if the rabbit is showing no other signs of sickness, a change in their droppings can alert you to any potential illnesses.
- No poop: If a rabbit has not pooped at all in the past 10-12 hours then it should be treated like an emergency situation. This is a sign that their digestive tract has stopped working.
- Small poop: If a rabbit’s poops are consistently smaller than usual, then it’s an early sign that they are experiencing some kind of pain or stress.
- Deformed poop: Deformed poops are usually a bad sign. They indicate that the rabbit is not eating enough for their dropping to form into the regular balls. However if a rabbit is recovering from surgery, this can be a good sign because it means their digestive tract is on the road to recovery.
- Double poop: This happens when a rabbit’s digestive tract slows down a little, causing two or more poops to collide into each other as they are being formed. A couple of these poops are nothing to worry about, but if you see a large number of them in your rabbits litter box, it can be an early indication of sickness.
- Mucus in poop: It is not common to find mucus in rabbit poop. When it is present, mucus may mean that your rabbit is suffering from some sort of parasite in their digestive tract.
- Mushy poop: Diarrhea is not healthy in rabbits and should be treated as an emergency.
Feed your rabbit a healthy diet for healthy poops
Because a rabbit’s digestion is so important to their health, you’ll need to pay close attention to the food they eat. Too much sugary starch with too little fiber could easily cause your rabbit’s gut to slow down. To keep your rabbit’s digestion moving along at a normal pace, you’ll need to give them a healthy and balanced diet:
- Hay: Rabbits should always be supplied with an unlimited supply of hay. Grass-based hay (such as timothy hay) has a high amount of fiber, which is great for keeping a rabbit’s digestion going. You’ll want to make sure your rabbit has access to hay all day long so they can keep munching and pooping the day away.
- Leafy greens: Fresh leafy greens are also high in fiber and are good for your rabbit’s digestion. Give your rabbit 1-2 cups of leafy greens a day. This will give them a more balanced diet and help them get the nutrients they need.
- Pellets: While not essential, pellets can add some vitamins and nutrients to a rabbit’s diet. However, these are not the best for keeping a rabbits digestion moving along and should not make up the bulk of their diet. Keep daily pellets to ¼ to ½ a cup per day.
- Treats: It’s okay to give your rabbit a little bit of sugary treats (such as apple, banana, or carrots), but if you give them too much it can mess with their digestion and cause their gut to slow down. Try to keep daily treats to less than 1 tablespoon.
Rabbits are very clean animals and will usually pick a corner of their enclosure to use as their bathroom. Start by putting the litter box in this chosen corner and moving some of the rabbit’s poops into the box. When letting the rabbit out of their enclosure, add a couple of extra litter boxes to the exercise area until your rabbit gets the hang of using the boxes.
Normal rabbit urine can span anywhere from a yellow color to a golden orange. Red, brown, or white pee are worth looking into, but these could also be perfectly normal for a rabbit. The real danger comes if you see small sand-like particles or blood in the pee, since these can be an indication of bladder sludge or urinary tract infections.
- Becker, Marty DVM. “Get the Hop on Bunny Digestive Problems.” VetStreet. June 26, 2014. http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/get-the-hop-on-bunny-digestive-problems.
- Harrimen, Marrinell and Harvey, Carolynn DVM. “Digestibility in the Rabbit Diet.” House Rabbit Society. https://rabbit.org/journal/3-3/digestibility.html.
- Karr-Lilienthal, Lisa Ph.D. “The Digestive System of the Rabbit.” Companion Animals. August 21, 2019. https://companion-animals.extension.org/the-digestive-system-of-the-rabbit.
- Meredith, Anna DVM. “The Rabbit Digestive System: A Delicate Balance.” Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund. 2010. http://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/article-ROWinter10p7.pdf.
- Taylor, Christine Ph.D. “Guide to Bunny Poops.” Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, www.bunssb.org/bunnies/guide-bunny-poops.