It’s no secret that wild and domestic rabbits alike eat a diet that is primarily made up of greenery: grass in the wild, hay in captivity, and a mixture of leafy greens in both settings.
But they also, occasionally, get other sorts of vegetables and plant matter in their diet though they don’t need much. And more, not all veggies are safe for them!
How about potatoes? Potatoes are certainly nutritious, and they seem so bland and wholesome they can’t possibly be harmful. Right? So, can rabbits eat them safely?
No, potatoes aren’t very good for rabbits and can be unsafe. Potatoes contain solanine which can be very toxic to them, and they’re so starchy they can easily cause major digestive upset and potentially fatal problems.
Potatoes, somewhat surprisingly, are truly one of those veggies you should avoid giving to your rabbits except in the smallest amounts on the rarest occasions as a treat. Even then, I don’t recommend it because there are so many other better, safer options to reward them with.
Potatoes just aren’t good for your bunnies, and I’ll tell you just how bad and more importantly why below.
Do Rabbits Like Potatoes?
Some rabbits do, others don’t. I’ve known a few that seem more than happy to nibble on potatoes, which is worrying considering how unhealthy and troublesome they can be. Others avoid them…
Practically speaking, I don’t think it matters that much because you really shouldn’t be giving potatoes to your bunnies anyway.
Are Potatoes a Healthy Food for Rabbits?
No, they are not. This is not to say that potatoes don’t have vitamins and nutrients that rabbits can make use of, they do, mostly in the form of B-complex vitamins and a smattering of essential minerals.
The problem with potatoes is that they are pretty much all carbohydrates in the form of starch with too little fiber. Yes, they’ve got a little protein, but this carbohydrate overload can seriously upset a rabbit’s digestive tract with potentially fatal complications.
Giving potatoes to them in large quantities, or serving them potatoes too often, will only lead to disaster.
How Can Potatoes Cause Problems for Rabbits?
Oh, the myriad ways that potatoes can cause problems!
For starters, potatoes are not nutritionally complete for rabbits. They cannot live on them, and if for whatever reason they are allowed to eat them instead of other foods will be missing out on better, more nutritious things that they need.
That’s just a best-case scenario: you’re going to be looking at malnutrition in the short and long term assuming other, worse problems don’t manifest first.
The next and more pressing issue is that potatoes can seriously upset the digestive tract of a rabbit.
What you might not know is just how sensitive their stomach and other organs are! Rabbits have a special organ called a cecum basically an open-ended pouch that rests between the large and small intestines.
This pouch is critically important, much bigger than the stomach itself, and that is because it contains bacteria and other microorganisms that help them ferment and break down the green, fibrous food that they typically subsist on for maximum nutrition.
Starchy, carbohydrate-rich foods are very problematic for rabbits because they disrupt this delicate ecosystem of gut flora that rabbits depend on.
When some types of bacteria multiply too rapidly, it leads to improper digestion, diarrhea and most worryingly the generation of gas. The issue being that they cannot get rid of gas by belching or breaking wind like most other mammals.
This gas buildup is uncomfortable, painful, agonizing and if it persists eventually fatal. It’s a terrible way for a rabbit to die, especially because all they did was eat a stupid potato.
Potatoes are Potentially Toxic!
Beyond all that, potatoes contain solanine, a glycoalkaloid toxin that is found in all members of the nightshade family that potatoes belong to. Although a ripe, fresh potato contains very little, in time these compounds could still build up in a rabbit’s body with dangerous results.
Worse, green potatoes or green patches on potatoes contain lots of stuff and every other part of the plant is loaded with it, so that means that the greenery of the plant is also right out.
And then finally, potatoes being so starchy, tend to cause bad interactions with other foods that rabbits might eat.
If they eat pellets and other dry foods along with potatoes the starchiness will bind to them and potentially interfere with proper digestion assuming that the gut biome isn’t already in disarray.
Whew! If you’ve read through all of this, you’re probably thinking it is quite a laundry list of problems, yes? That’s because it is, and all of them can be laid right at the feet of the humble potato.
Don’t give them to your rabbits except as the rarest novelty food and even then, think twice.
Never Give Rabbits Green Potatoes!
For emphasis, it is imperative that you never, under any conditions, feed your rabbits green potatoes.
Whether it’s potatoes that aren’t yet ripe for harvest or ones that have been exposed to sunlight, these potatoes contain high concentrations of solanine and can be fatally poisonous to them.
Are Potato Leaves and Vines Safe for Rabbits?
No! As detailed above, all parts of the potato plant including the vines and leaves contain dangerous quantities of solanine. Good thinking if you thought that rabbits might be able to eat this greenery safely, but that will be a fatal mistake.
Can Rabbits Have Raw Potatoes?
No. Raw potatoes are very troubling for all the reasons I detailed above, and they are difficult for rabbits to digest safely and easily, even in small quantities.
Can Rabbits Have Cooked Potatoes?
No, except they can have a few tiny bites of cooked potato very rarely with minimal expectation of bad outcomes. Cooking potatoes does make them somewhat easier to digest, but most rabbits like cooked potatoes even less than they like raw ones.
Also, it’s somewhat unclear just how much cooking reduces the concentration of solanine in potatoes, where present. This isn’t a sure thing for preventing solanine poisoning in rabbits, especially over time.
How Often Should Rabbits Eat Potatoes?
Ideally, never. But some people will give their own rabbits a tiny tidbit of cooked potato as a rare treat or novelty food.
When I say rare, I do mean rare. If you have a plain cooked potato, you can give your bunny a small cube no bigger than your thumbnail and they’ll probably be fine. Even then, I recommend against it…
The Best Way to Serve Potatoes to Rabbits
You shouldn’t be giving your rabbits potatoes, but if you absolutely insist, they must be cooked, plain and in very small quantities. Raw potatoes are still potentially dangerous, or at the very least more so than cooked ones, and all of the greenery is unsafe for them to eat.
Are Potatoes Okay for Bunnies?
Absolutely not. Potatoes are one of the worst things you can give a rabbit and those hazards are magnified tenfold for baby bunnies who have incredibly sensitive, delicate digestive systems and constitutions generally.
If potatoes start to cause problems for a little bunny it’s highly likely that they could die before you could get them the help they need to hopefully save their life.
Never, ever give them potatoes, and wait until they are completely grown and fully mature before you even think of giving them a little taste.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.