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What is Lemon Poisoning?

Generally, a small amount of lemon is sufficient to give your cat gastrointestinal symptoms The lemon tree, as well as the fruit, contains these poisons, so your cat (and other pets) shouldn’t be given free access to it. 

Think about how your cat responds to the smell of anything citrus. It may pull back and run to another area of your home as cats find any citrusy scent offensive. All citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, limes and lemons) are toxic to cats. Consider every part of the fruit, from the seeds to the fruit and skin, to be toxic or even potentially deadly for your feline.

The substances found in lemons (Citrus limon) is toxic to your cat, even though you and your family can safely ingest lemons.  Toxic compounds in the lemon include linalool and limonene, along with psoralens. The last compound is phototoxic, meaning it can cause your cat to suffer skin burns after exposure to sunlight.

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Lemon Poisoning Average Cost

From 482 quotes ranging from $200 - $400

Average Cost

$250

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Symptoms of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

After eating any part of a lemon, your cat will develop these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Potential photosensitivity
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Photosensitivity
  • Skin irritation or rash
  • Weakness
  • Cold limbs
  • Liver failure
  • Tremors
  • Collapse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sudden death
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Causes of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

Three compounds in a lemon, limonene, linalool and psoralen, are toxic, if not deadly for your cat. 

Limonene is a terpene that leads to the citrus scent of lemons. D-limonene has been used in dog shampoos and fragrances. The small amount present in dog products is safe for most sizes of dogs. For cats, it can prove lethal. Limonene is also used in flavoring compounds, cosmetic products, and cleaning products. Keep all of these away from your feline.

Linalool also gives the lemon its citrusy scent. It’s used as an insecticide in soaps and as a fragrant product in lotions. Linalool is also used as an insecticide itself.

Psoralen leads to photosensitivity issues for cats. It’s used as a treatment for certain skin disorders.

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Diagnosis of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

If your cat nibbles lemon and you catch it, get it to the vet right away. Take the lemon or a part of the tree with you for testing to help your vet makes a diagnosis. 

Expect the vet to ask you several questions and give your cat a complete physical, including a urinalysis and blood work. The blood chemistry profile and complete blood count help your vet to rule out underlying conditions and determine better what toxins are affecting your cat. Your vet may also examine your cat’s stool and vomit specimens to identify the source of toxins. The potential for your cat’s symptoms to worsen increases with the amount of lemon or lemon tree your cat ate.

Your cat may also undergo neurological testing, which allows the vet to witness assess coordination and reflexes.

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Treatment of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

Once your vet knows what is causing your cat’s symptoms, she can determine the most appropriate treatment. Because the cat could breathe the essential oil of a lemon into its lungs, inducing vomiting isn’t an option. Instead, the vet will wash your cat’s stomach out (gastric lavage) to remove as much of the lemon and toxins from its digestive system. In addition, the vet will deliver activated charcoal to stop the absorption of any of the toxic compounds into its bloodstream.

If you found your cat eating a lemon, even though they find citrus scents to be so offensive, wash your cat’s fur and skin with a mild soap and clean, warm water.

Beyond that, the treatments your vet provides are supportive, including IV fluids that rehydrate your cat and adjust any electrolyte and blood glucose imbalances your cat may be experiencing. Your cat may receive supplemental oxygen and anti-seizure medications if its tremors are becoming severe.

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Recovery of Lemon Poisoning in Cats

Your cat should make a good recovery from its lemon poisoning, if you obtained quick veterinary care.  The poisoning symptoms are short-lived. Don’t take your cat’s poisoning lightly; if it eats any of the essential oils found in lemons, its prognosis may not be as good.

If your cat is an indoor-outdoor cat, keep it inside for about 48 hours after receiving treatment for phototoxicity. 

Your vet will have you bring your cat in so she can regularly monitor its blood chemistry levels. She is looking at how your cat’s liver and kidneys are functioning.

Before you bring your cat home, place all citrus products in a cabinet or inside the refrigerator. Citrus-scented products containing any of the known toxins should be kept where your cat can’t get to them. Read labels carefully when you buy cat care products or sprays meant to deter them from furniture or walls inside your home.

 

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Lemon Poisoning Average Cost

From 482 quotes ranging from $200 - $400

Average Cost

$250

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Lemon Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Cleopatra

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black cat!

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8 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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No Symptoms

I have some d-limonene that I like to use in my mopping water, not a lot, just a touch, more for the scent than the actual cleaning properties. I want to be safe and know if it is going to harm either my bunny or my cat.

June 19, 2018

Cleopatra's Owner

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D-limonene is commonly used in a variety of different shampoos, natural flea dips and other products for cats, in small amounts it should be safe but due to the many different products and concentration I cannot give you any complete assurance; if you have doubts you should reach out to the manufacturer. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 20, 2018

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Winter

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white

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Alert Ears

I grated lemon zest and rubbed it onto my cats fur as a flea repealant my brother caught me and said no its poison for cats so i immediatly washed her with soap and water do i need a vet she licked some off of her

June 18, 2018

Winter's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

If Winter licked a small amount of the oil before you washed it off of her, she may have some mild GI upsets, and may develop vomiting or diarrhea. If she does start vomiting, having diarrhea, or becomes lethargic or doesn't want to eat, it would be best to have her seen by your veterinarian right away.

June 18, 2018

Hi Is fresh lemon scent safe for cats? Because Im planning to make something to shoo mosquitoes away,using lemongrass & lemon soaked in water and will put floating candles. Im having 2nd thoughts upon reading your answers.thank you.

Aug. 30, 2018

Diane M.

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Abby

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mixed

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3 Years

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2 found helpful

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Unknown

Thanks for this article, it was very nuanced. I have read some things that were very worrisome giving a vibe of "LEMON SCENTS WILL KILL YOUR CAT" and other sites that say "use lemon juice to deter cats from jumping on the table" without ever mentioning that it is toxic to them. Last night I placed about 3-4 drops of lime juice (straight from a lime) onto my living room floor next to the babygate we have to separate our cats who fight at night. They have been fighting through the gate and my one cat reacts strongly to the scent of citrus, so I thought this was a good idea. I have seen many things before saying to use citrus to deter cats and, of course, all these "all natural" movements insist that natural is better (I only used a real lime because I was putting lime in my drink at the time). Long story short, I got worried when reading a site that basically said I put my cat in danger, until I read more to find an average of what people were saying and came across your site which made me feel better because of your explanation and credentials. My cat seemed to be doing well this morning, I am at work now and will not be home for 6 more hours, but I will check her litter for liquid stool and I will check the house for vomit. I am assuming, based on your other replies, that my cat should be okay. I have no idea if she came in contact with the dried juice once the scent disappated, but I know she did not go near it wet, so she did not consume any. Anyway, are there artificial citrus scents that deter cats, but are also safe for them?

June 11, 2018

Abby's Owner

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2 Recommendations

Unfortunately the internet is full of experts giving advice which makes the working lives of Veterinarians a nightmare at times as we sometimes get blamed for misinformation online written by other people. Anyway, from reading your question I don’t believe that the three drops of lime juice will cause any issue and at most a little tummy upset. There are many products available which will vary depending on where you live; it would be best to use a product specifically intended for cats as there will be no grey areas when it comes to whether or not it is safe. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/lime-poisoning

June 12, 2018

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Artemis and Penelope

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Domestic short hair Tabby

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17 Years

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Mild severity

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Vomiting
Lethargic
Mild

HELP ! Read on another pet site that boiled lemons is a natural way to kill fleas on your cat ! I dipped the flea comb into it and brushed it through both my cat’s fur ! Both are lethargic and vomiting - in fairness they are 17. Do we need to go to the vet ???? Why would this be promoted as a good option for cats if it is poisonous to them ?!?! 😖😖😖😖

May 31, 2018

Artemis and Penelope's Owner


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There are many websites with self proclaimed ‘experts’ giving their advice for free online and whilst well meaning, they do make the lives of Veterinarians more complicated; typically in a case like this we would expect to see gastrointestinal symptoms (especially if they licked themselves) and lethargy. However large quantities can be dangerous for health and life threatening, you didn’t mention whether or not the boiled lemons was concentrated or a diluted mixture with water; either way bathe both cats thoroughly and visit your Veterinarian if there is no improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 1, 2018

Hello , thanks for your response . The lemons were boiled and soaked overnight . Then next day I dipped the flea comb in it and brushed it through their fur . I rubbed some more of it in around their neck region .

June 1, 2018

Artemis and Penelope's Owner

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Kimi

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Rescue

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7 Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Hi, I gave my cat about a tablespoon of lemon flavored tuna On Friday! I had no idea lemon was poisonous to them, but decided to look online on Friday evening and was so shocked and worried! She is only 7mths old and has a bit of a runny tummy! She is still eating but not a lot and is playing outside and seems well but still having a runny tummy! Will this pass? Will she be ok? She has become my little baby and sleeps in my bed with me every night! I feel soooo bad and will be devastated if something happens to her! Please advise me on what to do, money is an issue for me and don’t want to go to the vet if I don’t need to! Thank you kindly 😢

May 29, 2018

Kimi's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

I'm not sure what 'runny tummy' means, but if Kimi has diarrhea, it may be from the change in diet more than the small amount of lemon that she ate. If she seems to be doing well otherwise, the diarrhea may pass. If she continues to have diarrhea, or is vomiting repeatedly, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian.

May 29, 2018

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Sunny

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Tuxedo

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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None

Hi, I got some lemon oil because someone said it will determine cats from scratching the furniture. I had never heard it before so I wanted to be sure my cats weren't attracted to it. I let them smell a paper towel with a bit on it then I rubbed the paper towel on the furniture. Now my real stupidity kicked in and I directly touched one of the cats to see if they reacted to the smell (I thought they just hated the smell). It's been 8 hours and the cat seems fine but I just read lemon oil is toxic and the bottle says 100%. Should I take my cat to the vet, wait it out or what? I am so scared And angry at myself about this

Lemon Poisoning Average Cost

From 482 quotes ranging from $200 - $400

Average Cost

$250

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Compare Pet Insurance & Wellness Plans

Save up to $273 per year

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