Rabbits are herbivores, thriving on a plant-based diet. They enjoy various herbs, grasses, fruits, and vegetables. Potatoes, however, aren’t good for rabbits. While humans can digest potatoes with no trouble, rabbits can’t.
Rabbits like the taste of potatoes, but they are high in calories and provide no nutritional benefit. They are full of starch, which rabbits’ digestive systems can’t cope with. This can cause diarrhea, constipation or gastrointestinal stasis. The leaves and vines of the potato plant are also poisonous.
Let’s find out why you shouldn’t feed your rabbit potatoes, and what problems can arise if you do. We’ll discuss whether rabbits can eat cooked potatoes, potato peels or sweet potatoes. Finally, we’ll share some ideas for healthy treats you can offer your bunny instead.
Are Rabbits Allowed to Eat Potatoes?
Rabbits are herbivores. They enjoy many types of fruits and vegetables. If you offer a rabbit a piece of potato, they will happily accept.
However, this doesn’t mean potatoes are healthy for rabbits. In fact, the opposite is true.
Rabbits thrive best on an herbaceous diet. A rabbit’s diet should consist of mostly fiber, which helps push food through their digestive system. They should also have a small amount of fat and protein, essential for cell growth.
Rabbits get almost all of the nutrition that they need from grass hay. This high-fiber food should make up around 85% of their diet. The rest of their diet should be made up of leafy greens and herbs, like cilantro.
Starch, however, has no place at all. Even complex carbohydrates are bad for rabbits. Potatoes are made up almost entirely of starch. They should not form any part of a rabbit’s diet.
Rabbits can technically eat potatoes. However, it isn’t a good idea to offer them to your rabbit, even in small amounts. Wild rabbits don’t eat starch-dense foods, so neither should your domestic bunny.
It doesn’t matter what variety of potato you choose. Neither white potatoes nor red potatoes offer any nutritional benefit for a rabbit.
Why Do Rabbits Like Potatoes?
Most rabbits will willingly eat potato, despite how unhealthy it is for them. As potatoes don’t offer rabbits any nutritional value, it seems odd that they find them tasty.
Rabbits are drawn to potatoes because of their high-calorie content. Just like humans, rabbits evolved to prefer high-calorie foods over low-calorie ones.
For wild rabbits, this is a good thing. It’s an evolutionary adaptation helping to prevent weight loss or starvation. Picking calorie-dense foods means the rabbit can go longer without a meal.
Unfortunately, for our domesticated bunnies, it’s a bad thing. Pet rabbits don’t get as much exercise as wild rabbits, and they will overeat if they get the chance.
Rabbits don’t realize that potatoes are bad for them. Domestic bunnies have little instinct when it comes to avoiding unhealthy foods. It’s your job to offer your rabbit a healthy diet.
Why Is Potato Bad for Rabbits?
Although potatoes are bad for rabbits, they are not technically poisonous. If your rabbit eats a tiny amount of potato, it won’t cause any serious harm as they’re not toxic.
However, if your rabbit overeats potato, they will get sick. Potatoes are bad for a rabbit in the same way that junk food is bad for people. They’re too high in calories and carbohydrates, and difficult to digest.
Rabbits’ bodies aren’t designed to cope with the dense starch found in potatoes. Consuming a lot of starch can cause huge problems for a rabbit’s sensitive digestive system.
If a rabbit eats potatoes, they can experience:
- Weight gain
Constipation, in particular, is dangerous. It can lead to gastrointestinal stasis, a condition in which the entire digestive system shuts down. It’s almost always a death sentence for a rabbit.
Furthermore, potatoes offer no nutritional benefit whatsoever to a rabbit. They are low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Wild rabbits don’t even eat them – they focus on grass and whatever greens they can forage.
Sprouted potatoes are poisonous. The “eyes” that form on an old potato are the beginnings of potato stems. They are highly toxic to rabbits, and can quickly lead to death.
If you are growing potatoes in your garden, keep your rabbit away from them at all costs. If your rabbit free-roams indoors, keep your potatoes locked away out of your rabbit’s reach.
Can Rabbits Eat Cooked Potatoes?
Raw potatoes contain resistant starch, which is impossible for humans to digest. For us, resistant starch isn’t poisonous, but it causes uncomfortable gas and painful cramps. This is why it’s not advisable to eat raw potatoes or uncooked flour, for example.
However, humans are capable of digesting cooked potatoes. Once cooked, the amount of resistant starch inside a potato is significantly reduced. Cooked potatoes can form a healthy part of our diet.
For rabbits, though, the same can’t be said. Rabbits’ digestive systems aren’t equipped to deal with cooked potatoes.
Even though cooking removes much of the resistant starch, plenty of regular starch is still there. Rabbits cannot easily digest many forms of carbohydrate except fiber. The dense starch found in a cooked potato may be fine for humans, but it isn’t for rabbits.
Eating cooked potatoes may result in your rabbit developing the same digestive problems as raw potatoes. Diarrhea, constipation and gastrointestinal stasis can still occur with cooked potatoes.
So, as delicious as they may be, save cooked potatoes for your meals. Feed your rabbit hay and leafy greens instead.
Can Rabbits Eat Potatoes Peel?
Potato peels, whether they’re white or red, contain a lot more fiber than the white flesh inside. Half of the total fiber in a potato is count within its skin. The skin of the potato also contains many nutrients like potassium and vitamin C.
Rabbits need a high-fiber diet to be healthy. Their digestive systems depend upon lots of soluble and insoluble fiber to keep moving. Therefore, you may wonder whether rabbits can eat potato peelings as part of a healthy diet.
Potato peels still contain a high amount of starch. Their high starch content offsets their fiber content, making them difficult for a rabbit to digest. Potato peels are just as bad for a rabbit’s gut as the white flesh inside.
Rabbits should spend most of their time eating grass hay, which is almost entirely fiber-based. They get all of their valuable dietary fiber from hay, and occasional salads made of herbaceous leaves.
So, when you’re cooking with potatoes, don’t toss the peels into your rabbit’s enclosure. Instead, why not eat them yourself? Cooked potato skins are a great source of fiber for us, as we can digest starch with ease.
Can Rabbits Eat Potato Leaves?
Although potatoes aren’t good for rabbits, they aren’t poisonous. If your rabbit does accidentally ingest a little potato, it probably won’t hurt them. However, the same cannot be said about the green parts of the potato plant.
The leaves, vines, and flowers of the potato plant are highly poisonous to rabbits. The same is true for all other members of the nightshade family. This includes:
- Goji berries
- Peppers (including bell peppers and chili peppers)
- Deadly nightshade
If you have any of these growing in your garden, do not allow your rabbit to access them. Poisoning from nightshade greens is dangerous for rabbits, and can even be fatal.
What about wild rabbits? Rabbits wandering around gardens and allotments may come across potato leaves and vines. They learn from the senior members of their warren which plants to eat, and which plants to avoid.
However, wild rabbits don’t live long – they rarely make it past their first year. Sadly, they do occasionally eat poisonous plants, and suffer the consequences.
The leaves and vines of the sweet potato plant, however, are safe for rabbits to eat. They are not nightshades and, therefore, not poisonous. Research by Texas A&M University demonstrates that rabbits can eat sweet potato forage with no unwelcome consequences.
Can Rabbits Eat Sweet Potatoes?
Although they’ve got the word “potato” in their name, sweet potatoes aren’t closely related to regular potatoes. They are in different plant families, and don’t have much genetic similarity.
Sweet potatoes are part of the Convolvulaceae family, related to wood roses and morning glory. Potatoes, on the other hand, are nightshades.
Lower in calories and carbohydrates than regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are often seen as “healthier.” They are considered a “superfood” for humans, and are even included in some brands of high-end pet food.
However, for rabbits, sweet potatoes are anything but healthy. They contain far more sugar than regular potatoes, and are higher in fat. Both of these are bad for rabbits. And they are still far too starchy for a rabbit’s digestive system.
From a rabbit’s perspective, both sweet potatoes and normal potatoes are equally bad. Neither one will do anything positive for your rabbit’s diet. Eating sweet potatoes could lead to digestive complications and ill health.
The same goes for yams. The term “yam” and “sweet potato” are often used interchangeably, even though they’re from different families. They are equally as bad for your rabbit, though. Avoid starchy tubers altogether, no matter what you call them.
Can Rabbits Eat Potato Chips?
Potato chips are slices of potato that have been fried in oil. They are usually seasoned with salt and powdered flavorings. Though potato chips are some of our favorite snacks, they should not be fed to your rabbit.
If the potatoes weren’t bad enough to give your rabbit already, potato chips are even worse. Not only do they contain all of the starch that rabbits can’t digest, but they are also high in fat. Potato chips can be up to 50% fat, depending on the brand.
A rabbit’s diet should contain less than 3% fat. They get any fat that they need from hay, pellets and healthy vegetables. There’s no need to supplement their diet with fat from other sources.
Rabbits’ digestive systems can’t cope with fatty foods like potato chips. Feeding a rabbit potato chips could wreak havoc with their digestive system. The same goes for other forms of potato such as fries.
At worst, your rabbit could go into gastrointestinal stasis, which is often fatal.
If you leave potato chips around for a rabbit to find, they’ll probably eat them. This could be dangerous, so keep all human food safely out of your rabbit’s reach.
What Can Rabbits Have as Treats?
Even though potatoes aren’t good for rabbits, most rabbits enjoy the taste of them. This is for the same reason that humans enjoy junk food. Potatoes are high in calories and starch, making them the “forbidden fruit” of the rabbit world.
No matter how much your rabbit begs and pleads when you’re eating potatoes, don’t give in. Your rabbit could become sick if you let them eat potatoes. Fortunately, there are many other healthy treats that you can offer your rabbit instead.
Rabbits often go crazy for greens. Almost all herbs and leafy vegetables can be offered to your rabbit in moderation.
As well as veggies, rabbits love fruit. Some of a rabbit’s favorite fruits include:
Fruits are high in sugar, so they shouldn’t have them often. However, it’s perfectly safe to give your rabbit a portion of fruit the size of your thumb per day.
Introduce new foods slowly to allow your rabbit’s stomach to get used to it. If any food triggers diarrhea or constipation, stop giving it to your rabbit straight away.