Can Cats Eat Lemon?

(Last Updated On: July 8, 2021)

Lemonade, lemon juice, lemon squares—humans eat a lot of lemons. 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 cats. 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 Toxic

You might notice that whenever you cut open a citrus fruit, 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. In cats, this is very toxic, and so are the essential oils in the lemon peel like limonene, as well as compounds like linalool and phototoxic. Even ingesting these compounds 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 scent is toxic to your cat. That’s why you shouldn’t even use a shampoo that has a lemon scent, and to use only pet products on your cat.

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Lemon Juice

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 the lemon scent isn’t very strong or the flavoring is masked by other ingredients or something. If your cat does drink it, you may notice diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, 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 for a deterrent, just keep all of this in mind.

In terms of the actual lemon juice as well, do make sure that you’re not using any sort of lemon oil on your cat, and that you avoid air fresheners with limonene too. All of that’s fine for you, but you shouldn’t let it get near your cat.

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 lemon poisoning itself.

Your cat can be poisoned by the compounds in lemon, 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 products may not be problematic for you, you’ll need to make sure that your cat isn’t ingesting them even accidentally.

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

Lemon poisoning can lead to death, but only in extreme cases where your cat has ingested a lot of lemon juice. More normally, you will notice some symptoms that you can talk to your vet 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 really 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 symptoms as well.

You may not notice all of these though, mostly because your cat’s symptoms depend on your individual cat. If you’re really 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.

Now, all of this is frightening, and you might understandably panic if you think your cat has ingested 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 is in contrast to 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 spend some time doing a urinalysis or blood work to ensure that there are no other problems or underlying conditions that might be causing the symptoms instead, and may examine any stool or vomit to make sure that they know the source of the toxins. It’s not exactly 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 and then 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. Make sure to tell your vet all of your cat’s symptoms though, because if your cat had a lot of vomiting or diarrhea, your vet might give them some fluids.

Recovery

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

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 had some sensitivity to sunlight, you should make sure to keep them inside and maybe with your shades closed until they’re fully recovered.

During this time, you’ll also want to make sure 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 isn’t good for your cat. Keep them away from it as much as you can, 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, 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 make sure that their body is functioning properly and to help your cat out, it’s a great idea to make sure all of the lemons stay in the fridge and any citrus-scented products remain far away from where your cat can get into them. So long as you keep an eye on your cat and bring them in regularly to the vet, they should recover just fine. 

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