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Can Cats Eat Lemons? (Is Lemon Bad, Safe or Toxic for Cats?)

Posted in: Cat Health - Last Updated: May 1, 2022 - Author: Dexter Jones
Posted in Cat Health 
Last Updated: April 30, 2022  
Author:  Dexter Jones
Can cats have lemons

When we 'hoomans', hear lemons, we imagine lemonade, sunlight, a lot of vitamin C and a pleasant citrusy smell.

Well, I know I do!

We use this superfood to strengthen our immune system and make our food and drinks more flavorful and appetizing. Considering its amazing health benefits, some cat parents may try to add lemon to the diet of their feline friend. 

But, can cats eat lemons? Are lemons toxic for cats?

They believe that the new food will be just as helpful for their cat as it is for them. And it's a totally wrong assumption that may cost unresponsible and naive or first time cat owners a lot. Cat's body has different biology than a human's. 

While humans are omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores. Their body isn't suited to digest plants and plant-based materials. It's a thing we need to know before going to buy or adopt a cat.

What we tolerate may be a huge struggle and test for our furry friends. That's exactly the case of lemons which are not tolerated by the cat's body. Keep reading to learn why felines dislike this fruit and what are the risks of them ingesting it.

Can cats have lemons? Let's begin...

Can Cats Eat Lemons? (in short)

No, no, and No! Cats can't eat any citrus fruits, whether it's lemon, orange, or grapefruit.

Even in tiny amounts, citrus may trigger stomach pain, drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, lethargy, tremors, cold limbs, and even low blood pressure.

The worst, though, is when the cat ingests a large quantity of lemon or orange, as it may lead to poisoning, organ failure and sometimes the outcome will be fatal.

Cats Recognise Lemon Citrus

Luckily, cats recognize the citrus scent as a danger and avoid it almost every time they sense it. You don't need to hide lemons and cover your glass of lemon juice.

Considering this self-protective mechanism in cats, some owners actually put lemon slices or peels where you don't want their feline to explore, like certain parts of the garden or on the dining table.

However, while their nose can detect many dangerous smells, felines don't always make full use it.

To identify the citrus scent, a cat must position itself close to the lemon and start sniffing it rigorously.

This is not always done, so there is still a risk that your cat might not recognize the threat and ingest the lemon peels.

Can cats eat lemons

Is Lemon Toxic For Cats?

Is lemon bad for cats? 

In a nutshell, yes. It makes them very sick. 

Lemon contain essential oils and toxic compounds and elements that are not tolerated by the cat's body. These toxins are found in all lemon parts - the peel, seeds, and pulp.

The most dangerous compounds are limonene, linalool, and psoralen.

Limonene is the essential oil that renders the sharp smell of lemon. 

Cats are very sensitive to it, while the dog's body tolerates limonene in small amounts. That's why this compound is used in many dog care products. 

That being said, it's highly not recommended to use dog shampoo for your kitty. Use only cat shampoo to keep your beloved pet safe.

Limonene is also added to cleaning products, cosmetics, and air fresheners. So you should keep these products out of your cat's reach. 

Linalool has also a role in providing the lemon with a citrusy smell. It is used in shampoos, detergents, and insecticides.

The third toxin, psoralen, can cause mutations in a cat's DNA if it gets in its body. 

Your cat is also in danger if psoralen is applied to it. 

While it may treat psoriasis in humans, it causes skin burns on the feline's body. If a car gets into physical contact with lemon peels or lemon juice, it should stay indoors. 

Exposure to the sun will cause skin irritation and burns. 

So citrus to cats is a SERIOUS business.

Is lemon bad for cats

Why is Lemon Poisonous To Cats?

Only a few drops of lemon juice or a few lemon peels ingested can cause stomach discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea in cats. 

The more lemon your kitty eats, the worse the symptoms. Large quantities of this citrus eaten can lead to poisoning and even death.

Other major symptoms include skin irritation, photosensitivity, and liver failure. 

Being photosensitive means being vulnerable to UV rays originating from the sun and artificial light sources.

While poisoning occurs with the consumption of a large quantity of lemon, it's totally unreasonable to give your kitty even a thin slice of this fruit.

Keep in mind that your cat's immune system won't get stronger by eating a lemon. 

It doesn't work with them, so don't insist.

Even if you try, your cat will most probably say no. If its smell receptors are in good condition and its nose is not congested, it will be able to sense the citrusy scent. 

Once it does, it will either turn its head away in disgust, pounce on the lemon, or run away.

What is Lemon Poisoning?

A cat may get poisoned after ingesting toxins found in lemon and other citrus fruit. 

There must be a large quantity of lemon eaten to cause poisoning. You can understand that your cat got poisoned by several symptoms it develops soon after taking in the harmful food.

Symptoms of Lemon Poisoning in Cats:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach ache
  • Frequent drooling
  • Skin irritation
  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Liver failure

Liver failure is pretty difficult to identify but there are some symptoms that suggest this issue, including blood in the cat's stool and nausea. 

If you notice these and the above-mentioned symptoms, pay an immediate visit to the vet.

He will run a physical exam, a blood test, and a stool test. It will help him to detect the substance that caused the poisoning. 

Lastly, he will perform a neurological test to check the cat's neurological functions.

The symptoms may be milder or more severe depending on the type of lemon tree your kitty consumed. 

The amount ingested also plays a role. 

Poisoning is a health issue that requires immediate action. If the cat doesn't receive prompt medical assistance, later interventions will have little effect. 

If the medical aid comes after hours from when the poisoning occurred, a fatal outcome is likely.

Can cats have lemon juice

Treatment of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

Once they enter the cat's body, lemon toxins start to do their dirty job. 

It's perfect if you caught the cat right in the middle of the act as it is eating lemon peels or pulp. You will take it to the vet right away and increase its chances of surviving.

If your feline did it while you were gone, you will find out about the poisoning only when the first symptoms appear. 

Moreover, cats love to hide their pain. Your feline will withdraw and do its best not to show you its struggle. Still, it won't be able to pretend to feel good for long. 

There are some significant poisoning signs that are clearly visible and hard to hide, like vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors.

Besides poisoning symptoms, there will be changes in behavior that should alert you. 

For example, your cat might retreat and spend more time alone (although it's super sociable on a day-to-day basis). 

Also, it may walk slower and adopt an unnatural posture which may be caused by severe stomach pain.

Depressive mood and lack of desire to play can hint at a health issue as well. 

Once you find out about the poisoning, take your kitty to the veterinarian.

Vet Treatment 

The vet will use the gastric lavage procedure to eliminate the toxins from the stomach. 

Afterward, he will give your cat-activated charcoal. It will remove the last traces of poison from the feline body. 

Once the toxins are out, the vet will treat each symptom individually. He will use intravenous therapy to reverse the dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea.

Moreover, he can use topicals to reduce skin irritation and redness resulting from the lemon's acidity. 

If signs of photosensitivity are also observed, the vet will recommend you keep your cat at home until it finishes its cat medicine course and fully recovers. 

Make sure, though, your cat doesn't spend time near the sunny window. If you let it, though, cover the windows with blinds to reduce the contact with the sun's UV rays.


Do Cats Like Lemon Juice?

No. Cats are not fans of citrus juice. Neither are they fans of lemon scent. If they sense it around, they will try to walk away, considering it a threat. That's why some people use citrus peels to keep your kitty away from certain areas.

Can Cats Have Lemon Juice in Their Drinking Water?

No. You shouldn't put citrus juice in cat's water as it contains toxins that may seriously harm feline's health. A small amount of lemon juice ingested can lead to stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting in adult cats. It can lead to even worse symptoms, such as liver failure and ultimately death.  

Are Citrus Fruits Bad for Cats?

Yes. Citrus fruits are a big threat to a cat's well-being. They are made up of essential oils and toxins such as limonene and linalool that cause stomach distress, skin irritation, depression, and photosensitivity.

Can Cats Eat Lemons: The Verdict

Can cats eat lemons? ABSOLUTELY not. Keep them away from any citrus. 

As claimed by ASPCA, lemon is dangerous both for cats and dogs and can cause their death if ingested in large amounts. 

The threat comes from high lemon acidity in combination with psoralen and limonene, toxins that can cause huge gastrointestinal distress. 

Fortunately, a fatal outcome can be avoided if a veterinarian intervenes promptly. 

That's why you must urgently take your cat to the vet as soon as you see it nibbling on a lemon.

About the author

Dexter Jones has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia. He lives with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.