Rabbits are natural herbivores, which means they naturally prefer to eat plants, not meat. However, not all plants are equal. Some can be offered to a rabbit in plentiful portions, while others should be limited or avoided altogether.
Natural Rabbit Diet
Wild rabbits eat a varied diet -- generally grasses and leafy plants, plus some bark, sprouts, fruits and seeds. Rabbit caretakers can use information about wild rabbits' diets to determine what to feed their domestic counterparts.
Potatoes and Other Root Veggies
Amanda Lenz, educator and director of foster care for the Indiana House House Rabbit Society in Indianapolis, says rabbit caretakers should limit potatoes and other root vegetables like carrots, beets and radishes, because their sugar and starch content is higher than ideal. Rabbits may enjoy the taste, but too much sugar or starch can cause digestive upset.
Suggested Rabbit Foods
Instead of potatoes, rabbit caretakers should offer a base diet of grass hay, lettuces, sprouts, dark leafy greens and herbs like parsley, mint, basil, chicory, fennel and dill. Vegetables including broccoli, celery, sweet peppers, cabbage and zucchini are acceptable in smaller amounts. Likewise, occasional fruits: apples, mangoes, berries, bananas, melons and pineapple.
Signs of Illness
If a rabbit eats potatoes and experiences problems such as diarrhea, appetite loss, lethargy or weakness, see a vet. Introduce new foods slowly, and if you're unsure about an item's safety, call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.