Cecotropes, also known as cecotrophs, caecotrophes, caecotrophs, cecal pellets, cecals, caecels or night feces, are a second type of rabbit poop produced by the cecum. These are different than the dry fecal pellets that a rabbit more commonly produces and leaves in litter boxes and around their area. Cecotropes are not commonly seen by the rabbit owner unless there are rabbit health or dietary issues, and rabbits commonly eat them directly from their anus as they are produced.
How nutritious are cecals for rabbits?
Cecotrophs contain around 28-30% crude protein and up to 30% of the total nitrogen intake of rabbits. They are high in nitrogen, short-chain fatty acids, microbial protein, B vitamins, sodium, potassium, water, lysine, the sulfur amino acids, and threonine.
The short-chain fatty acids in their cecals provide an additional source of energy, and the B vitamins provided can be in excess of the rabbit's needs. It is estimated that B12 is synthesized 100x the daily requirement.
Cecotropes also aid in the replenishment of cecal microflora, and thus the products of bacterial growth are made available to rabbits either by direct absorption in the cecum and colon or the small intestine by consumption of the cecal contents.
Excessive cecal production
Generally, rabbits on a low-protein or low-simple carbohydrate and low-fat diet will consume more cecotropes to try and obtain adequate amounts of needed nutrients. Rabbits on a higher protein diet will consume less of their cecals.
If your rabbit is not consuming all of its cecotrophs and causing poopy butt, try reducing the amount of protein in your rabbit's diet. The easiest way is to change your rabbit's pellets, although if vegetables are a significant portion of your rabbit's diet, it may be wise to evaluate your choices there as well. See Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Data for more information.
- House Rabbit Society, Marie Mead, Disorders of the Cecum
- VeterinaryPartner.com, Susan Brown, DVM, Intermittent Soft Cecotropes in Rabbits
- Dana Krempels, Ph.D., The Mystery of Rabbit Poop
- Bright Eyes Sanctuary, Rabbit Medical Gallery > Cecals - Logs and Overproduction
- San Diego House Rabbit Society, What is a Cecal Pellet?
- Moore, L. (2013). Rabbit Nutrition and Nutritional Healing. (2nd ed.).
- Quesenberry, K & Carpenter, J. (2012). Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. (3rd ed.).