Rabbits need two kinds of fibre in their diet; digestible and indigestible, together we call this ‘beneficial fibre’. The first gives them essential nutrients and the second keeps their digestive system moving effectively.
Indigestible fibre passes through their digestive system and is excreted as separate, round, hard droppings. This process keeps the digestive system moving and stimulates their appetite.
Digestible fibre is moved up into an organ called the caecum - this is like a giant appendix. Good bacteria in the caecum ferment the fibre which then emerges in the form of clumps of sticky droppings called caecotrophs.
Rabbits then re-eat the caecotrophs directly from their bottoms and their systems extract essential nutrition as the digestible fibre passes through the stomach and intestines for the second time. Rabbits will eat the caecotrophs directly as they pass from the body, generally at quite times of the day/ night, so in a healthy rabbit caecotrophs should never be seen. Finding caecotrophs in the hutch or stuck to your rabbit can be a sign of poor gut health, and you should seek advice from your vet.
Failing to provide adequate portions of the right kind of fibre can rapidly lead to illness, which can sometimes be fatal.