Let me explain:
If you haven't had the pleasure (or been around me whilst I educate you) to have rabbits, then you may not be aware that rabbits produce something called cecotropes. Some might think they look like poo, but they really aren't. They are nutrient-rich dietary items pretty essential to a rabbit's well-being. Yes, the come out of the rabbit's behind, but they are nutrients, not poo, and usually the rabbit eats them directly as they are coming out. (Yes, I know that sounds gross, but that's the way God made them and they absolutely need them so they don't succumb to malnutrition.)
Occasionally, rabbits' cecotropes become too soft, and that's when you run into trouble. On Saturday when I got home from playing Snow White and going to the mall with my mom and sister, I noticed that Snicks had a mess stuck to his behind. Lordy day. Being a single parent of a fragile and quick rabbit, I struggled to hold him with one arm as I cleaned him off with a wet paper towel while facing the bathroom mirror so I could see. It was awful, for him and for me. I'm sure it was painful and uncomfortable for him, and it was difficult for me and also I felt bad for hurting him. Unfortunately, the same thing happened when I came home on Sunday after church.
Now, I know that digestive issues in precious bunnies are often life-threatening, but Snicks was eating, drinking, hopping, and acting just fine, so I was aware he was not dying. I did some research on the internet, and my buddies at the House Rabbit Society had the answer. Basically, they said that the bacteria in his intestines was out of wack, and I surmised the most likely cause was bad diet. (I'm relatively certain he has not been exposed to toxic plants, does not have cancer, and has no environmental stress. I mean seriously.) Their suggestion was to remove both commercial pellets and greens from his diet and feed him a diet comprised solely of hay. Snicks eats orchard grass daily (rabbits have to have unlimited hay), but he usually also gets some pellets, some greens, and perhaps some sort of fruit or oats treat. HRS says:
Treatment of ISC: The treatment of ISC is based first on a serious diet restriction to grass hay, which acts to return the GI tract to normal, and secondly a gradual reintroduction of additional foods after normal cecotropes are produced for at least a week. This would mean you are no longer seeing the soft cecotropes in the environment or on the rabbit.
Game on, HRS. I took away the pellets, the greens, and the treats. I put grass hay in his living room bowl and his cage bowl. So, since Sunday, he's been on a diet of hay.
And He. Is. Pissed.
Luckily, HRS warned me about this. They said:
There is no doubt that your rabbit will not be happy with you for a while and will probably throw a few tantrums. After all, when you remove the pellets and treats from the diet, it is like taking chocolate away from a chocoholic! You need to resist your pet’s attempts to manipulate your emotions and remember that this treatment is for her benefit and for your benefit as well when you have the freedom from cleaning up the mess every day!
I tell you what, Snicks is a straight-up emotional terrorist. And I feel awful. He hangs out near the kitchen doors all the time and is always looking at me with his big eyes, wiggly nose, and floppy ears like I'm killing him slowly with the indignity I am forcing him to suffer. But I will not be manipulated by his floppy ears! He will eat that hay until he is good for at least a week. I'm trying to keep him alive until at least age 17 years, 2 weeks, and a day.
Another positive is that he may lose a few ounces, and he could probably stand to do that. So, if you've ever wanted to see a seriously teed off house rabbit, I know where you can find one!