Can Cats Eat Lemon?

(Last Updated On: July 26, 2022)

Lemonade, lemon juice, lemon squares—humans eat lemons a lot. You might even have a lemon tree somewhere nearby, or you just buy lemons from the store that you bring home and your cat is a little curious about. Can your cat eat any of that lemon, though?

The answer is no. Even just a small amount of lemon can give your cat stomach trouble because lemon is toxic to felines due to its acidity. All citrus fruits are, so if you’ve got lemons in the house, make sure that your cat stays away.

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Ingredients in Lemon that are Poisonous to Cats

You might notice that whenever you cut open lemons and other citrus fruits like oranges, your cat pulls back and maybe runs from the room. They don’t like the smell instinctually already, but what ingredients in lemon are actually toxic?

lemon in water close up

Citrus fruits like lemon have something called psoralen, which is a chemical that can work for people to treat conditions like psoriasis and other skin irritation. In felines, psoralen is very toxic to cats, and so is lemon peel which contains essential oil extracts such as limonene, and peel toxic compounds like linalool and phototoxic. Cats will have skin irritation if their skin comes into contact with these kinds of fruits. Even a small ingesting of these compounds, especially psoralen and linalool can lead to your cat suffering skin burns when they’re out in the sunlight.

By the way, even the chemical that creates the lemon peel scent is toxic to your cat. That’s why you shouldn’t even use a product that has a lemon scent and use only pet products on your cat. You need to watch out for lemons as it contains essential oils and toxins with psoralen and linalool compounds that are poisonous to cats. In addition, it is also safe not to spray your cat with lemon water as an anti-flea or topical treatment.

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Is Lemon Juice Bad for Cats?

While humans and dogs are omnivores, felines are carnivores, so a cat’s system is different. Cats should not drink lemon juices. Thanks to the toxins in the scent of lemon, your cat shouldn’t want to go anywhere near lemon juice or lemonade. If your cat even smells it, you should notice them vomiting potentially, or their mood might dampen for the day.

Now, your cat shouldn’t want to drink the juice, but let’s say there’s a strong citrus scent or the flavoring is masked by other ingredients or something. If your feline friend does drink it, you may notice vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, skin irritation, tremors, seizures, and if they drink too much, even death. You should be careful about letting them close to any lemon juice, and if you’re using it as a deterrent, just keep all of this in mind.

In terms of the actual amount of lemon juice as well, ensure you’re not using any sort of lemon oil on your cat and that you avoid air fresheners with d-limonene too. Limonene is also present in some cosmetics. All of that’s fine for you, but you shouldn’t let it get near them.

Lemon Poisoning in Cats

We’ve already mentioned some of the symptoms of ingesting lemon and lemon oil being used on your cat, but let’s go more in-depth on signs of lemon poisoning itself.

The compounds in lemon cause poisoning to your cat, which are unfortunately used in many dog shampoos. If you also have a dog, always make sure to use a different shampoo for your cat, or maybe just use a non-lemon shampoo just to be sure that your cat doesn’t get too close. Like if your cat likes to lick your dog, for example.

You will also want to avoid any soaps or fragrances that have the scent of lemon. This includes any insecticides. So while these cleaning products may not be problematic for you, you’ll need to make sure that your cat isn’t ingesting them even accidentally. You need to hide those products well your curious cat may sniff them.

Unfortunately, it feels very easy for your cat to accidentally ingest something that they shouldn’t.

Not all lemon products smell very strongly of lemon, after all, and sometimes that flavoring and scent can be hidden by other smells. Your cat might ingest something without you even noticing or thinking about it, so you should be on the lookout for some of the most common symptoms of lemon poisoning.

Symptoms to Look Out for When Cats Eat Lemons

Lemon poisoning causes gastrointestinal distress or even death, but only in extreme cases where your cat has ingested a large quantity of lemon water juice or lemons. More normally, you will notice some symptoms that you can talk to your veterinarian about to make sure that your cat will get the treatment they need to keep living healthily.

This includes common symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, skin irritation, and weakness. If you want to narrow it down to lemon poisoning, look for excessive drooling, possible photosensitivity, depression, lethargy, cold limbs, and even collapse. Your doctor may possibly find that liver failure and low blood pressure are also symptoms.

You may not notice all of these, though, mostly because your cat’s symptoms depend on your individual cat. If you’re trying to figure out if your cat has ingested lemon, you’ll want to look for some of the odder symptoms to give you a clue. This includes that photosensitivity, which means sensitivity to bright lights or the sun.

Your cat might cower or act in pain. Look for other changes in your cat’s behavior as well, things that you wouldn’t ordinarily see them doing.

All this is frightening, and you might understandably panic if you think your cat consumes any lemon juice. But first off, know that poisons usually act quickly, which means that your cat will likely be displaying symptoms soon after ingestion. This contrasts with any usual illness, which may prompt your cat to hide in off places.

You should see lemon poisoning immediately, and if you do, take a breath and call your vet to get them an emergency visit. Lemon poisoning does not have to end in death if it’s not severe and if you can get the treatment that your cat needs.

close up lemon

Treatment

Get your cat to the emergency vet hospital as soon as possible when you start to notice symptoms, and treatment will begin right away.

You will likely do a urinalysis or blood work to ensure that there are no other problems or underlying conditions that might be causing the symptoms instead. The vet may examine any stool or vomit to ensure that they know the source of the toxins. It’s not easy for you to know for sure that your cat ingested lemon, after all.

Expect your vet to check on your cat and to ask you a lot of questions since they’ll need to know how much lemon your cat ate before beginning treatment.

Typically, this treatment is all about getting that toxin out of your cat as quickly as possible by pumping your cat’s stomach by giving them activated charcoal. All of this will remove the lemon while getting rid of any lingering toxins.

The toxin is removed now, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. As a pet owner, make sure to tell your vet all of your cat’s symptoms though because if your cat had a lot of vomiting or stomach pain with diarrhea, your vet might give them some fluids for rehydration or intravenous fluids therapy and do gastric lavage procedure.

Recovery

You’ve gotten the toxins out of your feline and have now guaranteed that they’ll be okay. This is great and is a good reason for you to be happy as a cat parent.

That being said, make sure that you still give your cat a little bit of recovery time. They did just go through quite the ordeal, after all. Your vet will help administer fluids if your cat needs it, and if you noticed that your cat has some sensitivity to sunlight, you should make sure to keep them indoors and maybe with your shades closed until they’re fully recovered.

During this time, you’ll also want to ensure that your cat’s behavior hasn’t changed and that they aren’t scratching at their skin. This is especially true if you used lemon shampoo by mistake, for example. Keep an eye on your cat to check that they aren’t further irritating themselves when they need to be recovering.

And it’s also a good idea to give your cat a good wash with mild soap and warm water. This will ensure that there are no lingering toxins from when your cat cleans their fur.

After all of this, you know that lemon is bad for cats. Keep cats away from it as much as possible, although they should hopefully stay away on their own. If they don’t, you should notice any symptoms quickly enough to bring your cat to your vet.

Ultimately, your cat will generally make a good recovery from lemon poisoning, especially if you were able to bring them to the vet quickly. Even if you only see some mild symptoms, it’s best to take your cat to the vet immediately. Just small amounts of lemon can be dangerous to your cat, which is why you should continue to bring them to the vet even after they’ve been checked out and treated.

Your vet will continue to monitor your cat’s blood chemistry levels to ensure that their body is functioning properly. To help your cat, it’s a great idea to make sure to put lemons in the fridge, and any orange and citrusy scent products remain far away from where your cat can get into them. So long as you keep an eye on your cats’ condition and bring them in regularly to the vet, they should recover just fine.

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