What is Calamondin Orange Poisoning?
The calamondin orange blossoms multiple times throughout the year with white, star-like flowers. The leaves are dark and glossy, and grow from wooded stems. It is the leaves and the flowers that contain psoralens and essential oils that are toxic to cats. Psoralens actually insert molecules inside the DNA after ingestion and, when combined with sunlight exposure, cause crosslinks to form between DNA strands. These crosslinks can lead to cell death, which results in the poisoning of the cat.
The calamondin orange is actually a hybrid plant made from crossing a tangerine or other citrus and a kumquat plant. This dwarf citrus tree that can grow to approximately 4 feet is part of the Rutaceae family. It is grown for its ornamental value more so than for its fruit, which is small and sour. The calamondin orange is often grown as a hedge or potted as a patio plant. It can survive outdoors in climates that drop as low as 20°F, which is much colder than most citrus trees can withstand.
Symptoms of Calamondin Orange Poisoning in Cats
Consuming the leaves and flowers of the calamondin orange can cause both gastrointestinal upset and severe skin irritation in cats. Signs to watch for include:
- Sensitivity to light
- Skin irritation
Causes of Calamondin Orange Poisoning in Cats
These decorative plants can be found in and around many homes and gardens in the United States. While the taste of the foliage tends to be bitter, cats with a curious nature may eat the leaves or blossoms of the calamondin orange. Kittens may be more at risk because of their inexperience and their very small body size.
Diagnosis of Calamondin Orange Poisoning in Cats
If your cat begins to exhibit signs of calamondin orange poisoning, take it in to see your veterinarian or to a local animal hospital. If you witnessed your cat eating plant material, but are unsure of what it was, bring a sample of the plant with you to be identified by a professional. You may be asked about the plants that you keep in your home, and if your cat is allowed outdoors. Providing your cat's medical history can help the vet to differentiate a potential poisoning from an underlying health issue.
A complete physical examination will be performed on the cat to note all manifested symptoms. This can help rule out other gastrointestinal or dermatological problems that may mimic the signs of Calamondin Orange poisoning. Full blood work will be run, including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile to assess the cat's overall health. Urinalysis may also be performed to test how the internal organs are functioning. A skin scraping may also be taken if scabbing or crusting has occurred from excessive scratching.
Treatment of Calamondin Orange Poisoning in Cats
There is no antidote for the effects of calamondin orange poisoning. Treatment is primarily symptomatic to support the cat while its body processes the toxins. Keeping the cat comfortable is the main goal throughout this process.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms in the cat, hospitalization may be needed. Intravenous fluid administration can help in cases where dehydration has developed from an extended period of vomiting or diarrhea. Fluids can also help flush toxins out of the body as fast as possible. Bathing the cat with medicated shampoo can provide immediate relief for itching and irritation of the skin.
Recovery of Calamondin Orange Poisoning in Cats
Poisoning from calamondin orange is rarely lethal to cats. Most will make a full recovery within a number of hours, with no lasting health issues related to the incident. Cats who have lighter and shorter hair may develop worse skin irritation than darker, longer-coated cats. If your cat is prone to skin irritation, psoralen exposure is likely to cause a worse reaction than in other cats.
It may be the best option to keep any calamondin orange plants outside of your home and out of your gardens. Keeping your cat indoors can prevent it from coming into contact with the plant on other people's properties.