Rabbits are hindgut fermenting herbivores and are selective feeders who prefer to eat the more luscious parts (leaves and shoot tips) of vegetation. The natural diet of rabbits is a large volume of high fibre foods which helps to naturally wear teeth.

As an adaptation, rabbits have evolved constantly growing teeth (these grow at a rate of 2-3mm per week). Eating fruits, seeds and roots is normally opportunistic to rabbits and should not make a significant portion of their diet.

Caecotrophy

Rabbits are also very special in that they participate in a behaviour called caecotrophy. Rabbits produce caecotrophs (often called night poo) from their digestive system, which are full of vitamins and amino acids. These caecotrophs are different to the hard faecal stools passed. Rabbits catch these ‘night poos’ as they are passed and reingest them. This enables them to get maximal nutrition from their diet. Caecotrophy occurs especially at dawn and dusk and when a rabbit is feeling comfortable in its environment.

When a rabbit’s diet is over-nutritious or there is an imbalance in the bacterial flora in the gut caecotrophy may not occur. This leads to an accumulation of caecotrophs on the rabbit’s bottom which can increase the likelihood of skin infections, matted hair and flystrike.

 

click to enlarge