Potatoes are a worldwide staple, found in cuisines from America to Europe to India and beyond. Did you know that humans can’t digest raw potatoes? It’s true: Their starches must be cooked before our bellies can do anything useful with these popular tubers.
Of course, rabbit and human digestive systems are quite different. Rabbits are herbivores, after all – and very well suited to eating and digesting raw foods like hay, greens, and carrots. If this leads you to believe that rabbits can eat potatoes, you’d be correct!
However, just because a rabbit can eat potatoes does not mean that they should. While the tuberous root of a potato is not poisonous to a rabbit, there are other compelling reasons that you shouldn’t allow your pet rabbit to snack on your Idaho spuds.
That’s why in this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about whether rabbits can or should eat potatoes. After looking at why potatoes aren’t a good choice for your rabbit’s diet, we’ll be answering common questions about whether rabbits can eat cooked potatoes or sweet potatoes, as well as examining the dangers that eating potatoes poses to your rabbit’s health.
Potatoes Aren’t Poisonous… But They’re Not Good for Your Rabbit
Unlike humans, rabbits have a digestive system that is very well suited to breaking down raw foods.
In the case of potatoes, humans are actually completely unable to digest them raw: While the starches might just give us a wicked stomach ache, a toxic compound called solanine could lead to much worse sickness. Solanine is particularly concentrated in potatoes that are still green on the inside, or those with newly sprouting green “eyes”.
Rabbits, however, can be observed digging up and eating raw potatoes in the wild. While their herbivorous digestive systems are better equipped to digest raw potato starch, rabbits’ lack of an ability to pass gas can make even the slightest digestive upset into a deadly problem. Combine this with the chance of eating a green, toxic potato eye, and it’s obvious that you shouldn’t let your rabbit eat potatoes!
Health Dangers of Potatoes for Rabbits
If potatoes are dangerous for rabbits to eat, then why might you see a wild rabbit digging one up to snack on? Or even find your house rabbit digging into a bag of potatoes in the winter? Simple: Potatoes are a rich source of carbohydrates and calories, and rabbits will preferentially choose these based on a deep-seated evolutionary survival mechanism.
This fondness for sweet, starchy, high-calorie foods often overrides a rabbit’s better sense of what is good for it. Even a little bit too much potato can cause serious gastrointestinal distress for rabbits – a condition which can turn dangerous or deadly very quickly.
GI stasis, a potentially deadly disease in rabbits, is not often caused by a physical obstruction… But by a change in bacteria in your rabbit’s gut. If your rabbit has eaten potatoes and you’re concerned for their health, keep a close eye on their eating and pooping habits: If either stop suddenly, call a vet immediately to get your rabbit’s gut checked out.
Can Rabbits Eat Cooked Potatoes?
Just as humans cannot eat raw potatoes, rabbits are equally unsuited to eating cooked potatoes – or any cooked food, for that matter. As dedicated herbivores, rabbits lack the digestive enzymes necessary to break down cooked foods. While almost every rabbit will avoid anything that’s been cooked, you should make sure to never offer cooked potatoes (or any other cooked food) to your rabbit.
Can Rabbits Eat Sweet Potatoes?
Because of their especially sugary insides, raw sweet potatoes might be even more of a temptation for your rabbit to steal from your kitchen. Exactly like standard potatoes, though, sweet potatoes are not fit for rabbit consumption and should not be fed purposely to your rabbit.
Final Thoughts on Rabbits Eating Potatoes
While potatoes may not pose an immediate threat to your rabbit’s health in the way that poisonous plants do, they are still a nutritionally empty option that’s likely to cause more harm than good. If your rabbit has gotten into potatoes on accident, be sure to watch for signs of GI stress and call your vet right away if they stop pooping or eating.
Thank you for reading today – we hope you learned everything you need to know about how to handle potatoes and your pet rabbit!
Featured Image: Marko Paakkanen from Pixabay