Can Cats Eat Lemon? Here’s What You Need To Know

Last updated on December 12th, 2021

So you’ve decided to make yourself some nice lemonade, your kitten stares as you drink it. You feel bad and wonder whether it’s okay to share some with her.

We know that lemons are one of the sourest fruits we add to our diet in various forms like sweets, meat cuisines, or lemon juice.

However, we’ve never eaten too much of these citrus fruits at once because we know they are acidic. The same goes for our cats. While it suits us human beings, the cat’s physiology is a lot more delicate and fragile.

Even though they may smell good to you, lemons are highly toxic and acidic for these feline pets. Some of them may even find the smell of lemons offensive or pungent and may simply run away to another corner of the house!

Cats can’t eat lemon because a substance called psoralens along with the acidity present in these citrus fruits can cause serious digestive problems to your cat.

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Lemons

So, is it safe for cats to have lemons or lemon juice? The only answer to this question is “No!” let’s find out why.

What is Citrus Poisoning?

You will be surprised to hear that not just lemons but the entire lemon tree is poisonous and toxic for our kittens.

For instance, all the parts of this fruit, including skin, seeds, pulp, and leaves, are toxic to cats. So, you must never give your cat (or other pets) access to a lemon tree or a basket containing citrus fruits.

In fact, a small amount of lemon is enough to cause serious gastrointestinal problems in feline animals. According to the ASPCA, they say that lemons (Citrus limonia) are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.

And not just lemons, all citrus fruits are toxic to cats, and the list includes limes, oranges, and even grapefruit.

If eaten in smaller quantities, lemons can cause gastrointestinal upset in felines. Sadly, if eaten in larger amounts, citrus fruits can cause poisoning, which can even be fatal for cats.

Nutritional Value of Lemons

Lemons don’t have much nutritional value, at least not for cats. For instance, a medium-sized lemon has low fat and proteins and only around 20 calories. The main constituents of lemons are mostly carbohydrates (around 10%) and water.

Symptoms of Citrus Poisoning in Cats

According to ASPCA, the common clinical signs of citrus toxicity or lemon poisoning in cats and dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Potential Dermatitis or Photosensitivity
  • Depression

Other signs include –

  • Lack of appetite
  • Stomach upset
  • Excessive drooling
  • Skin rashes or irritation
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Tremors
  • Low blood pressure
  • Liver damage
  • Sudden death

Also, the high acidity of lemons can cause indigestion in kittens. If your cat eats any part of the lemon accidentally, immediately consult your veterinarian.

Causes of Citrus Poisoning in Felines

Another harmful substance is an essential oil which can be found in the lemon peels.

Therefore, the peel is highly toxic for cats when ingested in any form, no matter whether it’s taken internally or applied to the pet’s skin.

Some cats often get attracted by the smell of the lemon tree, which is rather strange, especially when the strong smell of lemons usually repels them.

Although most of the essential lemon oil is concentrated within the fruit, there is enough of it in the citrus leaves.

So, if your cat happens to ingest any part of the leaf as well, they may show signs like vomiting, depression, diarrhea, and overall weakness.

In severe cases, cats may suffer from liver damage. That’s why it’s important for pet owners to keep their lemon trees out of their pets’ reach.

What’s worse? Since cats have a lower body weight compared to dogs and horses, they are more prone to citrus poisoning. So, cat owners need to take extra precautions and be more careful about their pet’s diet.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Whenever you catch your cat feeding on a lemon, rush to your vet for testing. Let your vet know which part of the lemon tree is ingested to simplify the diagnosis process.

Your veterinarian may ask a few questions, such as the symptoms you have noticed or whether your furry friend has been recently exposed to anything abnormal.

In some cases, vets may even use an endoscope, a thin tube used to examine the feline’s stomach. If your vet notices citrus pieces in the abdominal area, they would begin the treatment.

Treatment procedures generally include inducing vomiting using a hydrogen peroxide solution (3%). The vet may then choose to flush out any remaining toxins from the cat’s body through methods like gastric lavage (a kind of stomach wash).

Alternatively, the veterinarian may also use activated charcoal to absorb the residual toxins that may be left in the cat’s stomach.

Recovery

Don’t worry, most cats recover soon after proper and timely treatment of citrus poisoning.

However, pet owners may need to keep continuing the treatment if their pet is still experiencing dehydration.

Ask your vet about the right diet for your kitty.

Your vet may recommend you to feed soft foods to your cat for the next few days till they gather their strength and recovers.

So, if you have citrus plants in your garden or yard, keep your feline friend indoors. If possible, remove them or keep them in a place safe from your cat’s reach.

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