What is Grapefruit Poisoning?

Grapefruit (Citrus paradisii) contains psoralen compounds which are toxic to your cat and can be absorbed through the skin as well as ingested. All parts of the fruit, peel, fruit and seeds are toxic and can induce serious symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, and photosensitivity. If enough grapefruit is ingested or absorbed, toxicity can be fatal. If you cat has been exposed to grapefruit oil cutaneously or ingested grapefruit or grapefruit oil seek veterinary care and advice immediately.

Grapefruit is a common human household food item that is toxic to your cat. Most cats have a natural adversity to citrus fruits and do not readily consume them, but it is possible for your cat to accidentally ingest grapefruit or be exposed to grapefruit oil (essential oil) and experience symptoms of toxicity.

Symptoms of Grapefruit Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms of Grapefruit poisoning include:

  • Depression
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Drooling/salivating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Photosensitivity
  • Symptoms of liver or renal failure

Toxicity can become fatal if enough grapefruit toxins are absorbed.

Causes of Grapefruit Poisoning in Cats

Although cats tend to avoid citrus fruit, there are a number of ways they can be exposed to this household food item.

Grapefruit oil can be absorbed through the skin or ingested. Pet owners may administer oil or fruit to their cat as a holistic remedy, not realizing it is toxic to cats.

The flesh, peel, pith, and seeds of grapefruit are all toxic and can be sampled, mixed with other food or administered to your cat accidentally in spite of your cat's normal natural adversity.

Cats may also access grapefruit in the garden when they fall from trees or when climbing trees.

Diagnosis of Grapefruit Poisoning in Cats

If you know or suspect your cat has ingested grapefruit or grapefruit oil or has had grapefruit oil applied to their skin, you should seek veterinary care immediately. Inform your vet of the quantity and time of grapefruit exposure to help your vet determine necessary treatment. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination to ascertain symptoms of grapefruit toxicity and your cat’s general condition. Provide your veterinarian with a medical history so he/she is aware of any preexisting conditions that may complicate toxicity or treatment. Your veterinarian may also perform blood or urine tests to determine if other medical conditions are present that may complicate your cat's condition and treatment.

Treatment of Grapefruit Poisoning in Cats

If grapefruit has been ingested recently, your veterinarian may induce vomiting. If grapefruit essential oil was ingested, vomiting should not be induced as there is a risk of aspirating the oil during vomiting.

Your veterinarian may also administer activated charcoal to bind with the grapefruit and its toxins and allow it to pass through your pet's system with minimal absorption in the digestive tract. 

Supportive care will be started for your cat to address toxicity symptoms. Intravenous fluid therapy will be administered so that your cat does not become dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea. Your cat's vital signs and organ functioning will be monitored. Blood work and urinalysis may be performed to monitor organ functioning. Medication to support organ functioning of liver and kidneys will be administered if needed.

Recovery of Grapefruit Poisoning in Cats

The recovery of your cat will depend on the severity of grapefruit poisoning symptoms experienced. If your cat has experienced grapefruit poisoning, their recovery may involve a special diet to address any damage to internal organs such as the liver or kidneys. Your cat should be monitored for further symptoms that would indicate any lasting effects or damage as a result of grapefruit absorption or ingestion. Any concerns should be followed up with your veterinarian.