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 handle. This can cause diarrhea, constipation, or GI stasis. The leaves and vines of the potato plant are 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.
Are Rabbits Allowed To Eat Potatoes?
Rabbits enjoy many vegetables. If you offer a rabbit a piece of potato, it will accept it. However, this doesn’t mean potatoes are healthy for rabbits. Rabbits thrive on an herbaceous diet. A rabbit’s diet should consist of mostly fiber, which pushes food through the digestive system. They should have a small amount of fat and protein, which are 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.
Rabbits can eat potatoes, but 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 a domestic rabbit. Neither white potatoes nor red potatoes offer any nutritional benefit to a rabbit.
Why Do Rabbits Like Potatoes?
Most rabbits will 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. However, rabbits are drawn to potatoes because of their high-calorie content. Rabbits evolved to prefer high-calorie foods.
For wild rabbits, this is a good thing. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that helps to prevent weight loss or starvation. Picking calorie-dense foods means that the rabbit can survive for longer without a meal.
Unfortunately, for our domesticated rabbits, it’s a bad thing. Pet rabbits don’t get as much exercise as wild rabbits, and they will overeat food if given half the chance.
Rabbits don’t realize that potatoes are bad for them. Domestic rabbits have little instinct when it comes to avoiding unhealthy foods. It’s your job to provide your rabbit with a healthy diet.
Why Is Potato Bad for Rabbits?
Potatoes are not technically poisonous. If your rabbit eats a tiny amount of potato, it won’t cause it any serious harm as they’re not toxic. However, if your rabbit overeats potato, it 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 are difficult to digest.
Rabbits’ bodies aren’t designed to cope with the dense starch found in potatoes. Consuming a lot of starch can cause problems for a rabbit’s sensitive digestive system. If a rabbit eats potatoes, they can experience:
Constipation can lead to GI stasis, a condition in which the entire digestive system shuts down. Potatoes offer no nutritional benefit whatsoever to a rabbit. They are low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Wild rabbits 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. If your rabbit free-roams indoors, keep your potatoes locked away out of your rabbit’s reach.
Can Rabbits Eat Cooked Potatoes?
Rabbits’ digestive systems aren’t equipped to process cooked potatoes. Even though cooking removes much of the resistant starch, plenty of regular starch remains. Rabbits cannot easily digest many forms of carbohydrate, except fiber.
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.
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 nutrients, like potassium and vitamin C.
Rabbits need a high-fiber diet to be healthy. Their digestive systems depend upon 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.
Can Rabbits Eat Potato Leaves?
The leaves, vines, and flowers of the potato plant are poisonous to rabbits. The same is true for all other members of the nightshade family.
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 do eat poisonous plants and suffer the 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.
For rabbits, sweet potatoes aren’t healthy. They contain far more sugar than regular potatoes, and are higher in fat. Sweet potatoes and normal potatoes are equally bad.
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.
The leaves and vines of the sweet potato plant are safe for rabbits to eat. They are not nightshades. Research by Texas A&M University found that rabbits can eat sweet potato forage with no unwelcome consequences.
Can Rabbits Eat Potato Chips?
Potato chips are slices of potato that have been fried in oil. They are seasoned with powdered flavorings.
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 the fat they need from hay, pellets, and healthy vegetables. Rabbits’ digestive systems can’t cope with fatty foods like potato chips or fries.