Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour


Rabbits need exercise. c. Celia Haddon

if your rabbit has a dirty bottom, with bits of sticky poo on it, you need to take it to the vet. This is sometimes called sticky bum syndrome! If the usual daytime droppings are still dry, this sticky poo is not diarrhoea. It is the special droppings called cecotrophs which are EATEN by healthy rabbits. Yes, nature has designed the rabbit to eat its special droppings. They turn round and take each dropping as it comes out of their back passage. The cecotrophs usually appear four hours after a meal, and are mostly done around about noon or lunchtime.
A rabbit with a dirty bottom is not eating its cecotrophs, as it should. There is a danger that it will get fly strike. There are several possible reasons for why this may be happening.

This rabbit cannot reach the cecotroph and needs daily washing

This rabbit cannot reach the cecotroph and needs daily washing

  1. Your rabbit is too fat to reach her bottom. Your rabbit needs to diet and eat mainly hay and grass. A vet can prescribe diet rabbit food and give you advice. You must also give her a run and fun things to do so she can become more active. Bored rabbits may overeat and put on weight (Gunn-Dore 1997) Read:  What should I feed my rabbit?
  2. He has arthritis or is in pain so he cannot reach his bottom because of pain. Back pain and spinal problems are often linked to osteoporosis caused by small cages, lack of exercise, aging or sometimes genetic inheritance. Rabbits with flat faces find it more difficult to bend down to reach the cecotrophs.  Your rabbit needs veterinary treatment, the correct diet, and a lifestyle with more space and activity. If your rabbit is elderly read: How should I care for my elderly rabbit?
  3. Your rabbit has teeth problems and therefore cannot eat her hay properly. When she tries to eat the caecotrophs, her tongue hurts and it’s hard for her to lick them into her mouth (Van Caelenberg et al., 2008). Your vet should check her teeth. Read: What are the signs of tooth trouble?4DayPoopImage1
  4. Your rabbit is eating too rich a diet and therefore is too full up to eat his cecotrophs. He needs much more fibre in hay and grass. Start reducing the amount of rabbit mix or pellets that you give him day by day until you are only giving only a small amount each morning.  Give plenty of good sweet hay.
  5. Your rabbit has worms. These can be picked up from wild greens. In this case the ordinary droppings, which are usually very dry, will come out as diarrhoea.


To see how rabbit poo improves after a proper diet (read What should I feed my rabbit on this website) click on the photograph to the right for a better view and for more information go to http://wabbitwiki.com/wiki/Rabbit_poop


Gunn-Fore, D., (1997), ‘Comfortable Quarters for Laboratory Rabbits,’ in ed Reinhardt, V., Comfortable Quarters for Laboratory Animals, Eighth Edition, 46-54. Available at: www.awionline.org/pubs/cq/five.pdf. Accessed February 12 2013.

Van Caelenberg, A., De Rycke, L. , Hermans, K., Verhaert,L., van Bree, H. & Gielen, I, (2008), ‘Diagnosis of dental problems in pet rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus)’, Vlaams Diergeneeskundig Tijdschrift, 77, 386-394.


These notes are my copyright. I am also usually happy to have the exact words reproduced on websites, in return for a link, my name, and if permission is asked beforehand. I like to check the websites where it might be used. Email me via this website for permission which will usually be given. Organisations wishing to use them in print should contact me via this website. Copyright © 2007 Celia Haddon. All Rights Reserved.

Safety notice.

All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.

General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.

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