Can Cats Eat Lemon? What You Need to Know!

Last Updated on: October 19, 2020

If your cat gets into the fruit bowl, you may wonder what you should do. Can cats eat lemons, or are they unhealthy for your furry friends?

The short answer: lemons are toxic to cats. You’ll want to keep them out of the reach of your curious feline as much as possible.

The good news is that cats usually avoid citrus scents. But if your cat insists on sampling your groceries, you’ll probably want to know what the specific issues are. Let’s delve into what makes lemon and other citrus fruits a concern for our feline friends.cat face divider 2

Toxic Ingredients

The most important thing to remember about lemons or any other food is that just because it’s okay for you to eat is not a guarantee that it’s safe for your pets. The difference rests with our different physiologies.

What is okay for us to eat isn’t necessarily the same for cats—or dogs. Garlic, chives, and onions are examples of things we can digest without any issues but will harm other animals.

Can Cats Eat Lemon
Photo credit: Myriams-Fotos, Pixabay

Unlike people and dogs, cats are obligate carnivores. That means the majority of their diet comes from meat. Evolution hasn’t equipped them to digest plant materials the same as omnivores like us. However, there’s more to this question.

The problem with lemon or any citrus fruits like is an ingredient called psoralen. This chemical can affect DNA and cause mutations. Ironically, it also has therapeutic applications in people for treating health conditions like psoriasis. For cats, it’s a different story.

The essential oils in the lemon peel such as limonene are also a problem. It’s not just cats. These compounds are also toxic to horses and dogs to varying degrees.

It’s not just lemons themselves that can cause a problem. The chemical responsible for the lemon scent is also toxic to them. The lemon shampoo you use on your dog can be dangerous to use on your cat. That’s why it’s imperative to only use cat products on your pet.

Health Effects and Symptoms

Even a small taste of lemon is enough to trigger gastrointestinal distress in your pet, if just because of the high acidity. However, a lot depends on your cat and her biology. The amount and form are also critical factors. Other symptoms of lemon poisoning include:

  • Irritation around your pet’s mouth and gums
  • Drooling
  • Tremors
  • Body weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Death

Lemon can also cause other signs that may seem odd, such as sensitivity to bright lights or even the sun. She may cower and act as if she’s in pain. Suffice to say that you’ll likely see changes in your pet’s behavior, which are a red flag that something is seriously wrong.

Can Cats Eat Lemon
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Diagnosis and Treatment

Poisons often act quickly, but again, a lot rests with your cat’s biology and health as well as how much she ate. Remember that cats often hide the fact that they’re sick. They may act differently than they normally do, like hiding in strange places. That can be a sign that you’re dealing with illness instead of a toxin, where the effects are more immediate.

If you see the telltale symptoms, get your cat to the emergency vet hospital ASAP. The typical treatment is to get the toxin out of your pet’s system quickly through gastric lavage or pumping out her stomach followed by the administration of activated charcoal. The latter will help remove any lingering toxins in your cat’s GI tract.

Your vet may also give your pet IV fluids to rehydrate your cat if she vomited or had diarrhea. If she experienced phototoxicity or extreme sensitivity to sunlight, you should keep her inside until she recovers fully. She is at risk for secondary infections if she scratches too much from the effects. Anything else is supportive care to help her recover from the ordeal.cat + line divider

Final Thoughts About Cats and Lemons

As our discussion showed, lemons are not safe for cats and can cause life-threatening symptoms and even death. The important takeaway message is that just because you can eat something doesn’t mean that it’s all right for your pet. Our bodies process foods differently.

The other critical message is that cats and dogs are not the same. They too have distinct physiologies that reflect their dietary needs and evolution. The greater risk exists with using canine products on felines. It’s not just marking by the pet industry. It can have dire consequences. Perhaps the best thing you can do as a pet owner is not to give your cat or dog any people food.


Featured image credit:Manja Vitolic from Unsplash, Dominika Roseclay from Unsplash