Posted by: soniahs | May 6, 2011

Friday bunnyblogging: Noe’s many interests (part 6)

Today, Friday bunnyblogging is brought you you by the letter P… for poop.

  1. gnawing
  2. eating
  3. exploring
  4. frolicking
  5. napping
  6. pooping
  7. digging
  8. getting the humans’ attention
  9. warning the humans of danger

Rabbits are extremely efficient eating machines. However, they eat a diet that’s quite high in fiber- cellulose, to be exact. Cellulose is a primary component of plant cell walls that’s extremely strong and difficult to break down for digestion.

Molecular model of cellulose strands (red & gray structure), with clingy hydrogen-bonds between strands. These H-bonds help make cellulose strong. (image: Wikipedia)

Most mammals can’t break down cellulose, which is why:

  1. The proper function of our (mammals’) digestive systems often depends on getting a certain amount of cellulose in our diets, in order to build bulk that helps things pass through the system. If rabbits don’t get enough fiber, they  can go into gut stasis and die.
  2. Herbivores, especially grazing animals that eat a lot of grass, have symbiotic bacteria in their guts that do the cellulose-breaking down for them. If you’ve ever seen a cow chewing its cud, it’s re-processing partly digested grass courtesy of the bacteria, and swallowing it for a second round of digestion.

Rabbits don’t chew their cud, but they do “recycle” their own poop- at least some of it. Most rabbit poop consists of hard, dry, grassy pellets (assuming the bunny is getting a good hay-filled diet). Because this poop is not broken down very far, there is a lot of it. Some of the poop has been processed for an extra long time in the rabbit’s cecum, a specialized intestinal chamber where the symbiotic bacteria reside. This poop, called cecal pellets, is soft and vitamin rich. While rabbits typically don’t re-eat their regular poop, they do eat these cecal pellets again. This is how they gain nutrients from a mainly grassy diet.

So fiber- and poop- are obviously important for bunnies. Luckily, the little beasties are litter-trainable, so there is some place for the large quantities of poo to go.

"You'd better not be putting this on your blog!"

One benefit of the large amounts of partially-processed plant matter is that it makes great fertilizer! If you have a garden, you can just add the poop to the soil, and the poo quanta will break down over time. For houseplants, you can either crush up the poo manually and add it to plant pots, or soak it in water for a bit till it breaks down, then water the plants with the poo-water. I’ve only tried the water trick once, and it was pretty stinky- I now just go the crushing up route.

So there you go-bunny behavior #6: pooping.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. […] pooping […]

  2. […] pooping […]

  3. […] second video (with slightly less artistic camera work) shows her eating some cecal pellets a few minutes later. While this sounds like a rather disgusting process, I think she does a pretty […]

  4. […] blogged quite a bit about Noe and her behavior and the interesting things she does. I also plan to put together a post in the near future on how much money […]


Categories

%d bloggers like this: