4 min read

Can Cats Eat Lemon?

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By Aurus Sy

Published: 12/14/2022, edited: 01/10/2023

Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

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Overview

High in vitamin C and other nutrients, lemons add flavor to many dishes and beverages, making this popular fruit a great kitchen staple. But is it safe to give your cat lemon? The answer is no. Lemons contain the essential oils limonene and linalool, as well as chemicals called psoralens, all of which are toxic to cats.

Depending on the amount and part of lemon consumed, a cat may experience symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal discomfort to depression. Read on to find out what you should do if your cat eats this zesty fruit. But first, let’s take a look at how much lemon is toxic to felines.



How much lemon is toxic to a cat?

You’re slicing lemons and your curious cat jumps on the counter and licks your fingers—oh no! Should you worry? 

The severity of lemon toxicity depends on the amount ingested, and a cat would have to consume an excessive amount to have any severe reactions. Fortunately, in the scenario above, a single lick will not harm your feline friend. Now, if they had ingested a small amount of lemon juice, then they may drool and show gastrointestinal symptoms, mainly vomiting.  

The part of lemon that was ingested also affects the severity of symptoms; lemon peel is more dangerous than lemon juice because of the oils it contains.

While lemons are mildly toxic to cats, it’s important to keep them away from your furbaby at all times. Avoid storing lemons in places where your cat can easily find them, such as in a fruit bowl on your kitchen countertop. You’ll also want to keep anything that has lemon in it out of your cat’s reach; leaving a half-eaten slice of lemon cake or piece of lemon chicken on the dining table is a no-no.



Whole and halved lemons on a table - Can Cats Eat Lemon

What should I do if my cat eats lemon?

A cat who has eaten any part of a lemon may exhibit signs of lemon poisoning. Watch out for symptoms such as:

If you catch your cat eating a lemon, bring them to the vet right away. Take the lemon with you as well, as it can help your vet in assessing the severity of the poisoning, making a diagnosis, and prescribing the most appropriate treatment. If your regular vet does not offer after-hours services, bring your cat to an emergency clinic or call the Pet Poison Helpline which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

It is not recommended to induce vomiting without consulting a veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline first, as doing so could make your cat’s condition worse. Be sure to always follow the advice of a professional.



Do cats like lemon?

Fortunately, the scent of a lemon is enough to make a cat turn their nose up at this tangy, yellow fruit. While pleasant and refreshing to us humans, it’s off-putting to our feline friends. Cats have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and lemons are very aromatic, hence they find the zesty scent over the top.

In fact, lemon peels are often used as humane cat deterrents. Many homeowners scatter them along the perimeter of their yards to keep feral cats out, and some pet parents who have gardens place them around certain plants so that their furbabies will steer clear of them.



Lemons and lemon infused water on a tray

Can I put lemon in my cat’s water?

Lemon water has been touted for its many health benefits, from aiding digestion to supporting weight loss. While it's good for humans, there’s no reason to put lemon in your cat’s water as it can do more harm than good. Even a small amount of lemon juice can cause gastrointestinal symptoms in felines.  



Is citrus poisonous to cats?

All citrus fruits are mildly toxic to cats. So aside from lemons, you’ll want to make sure your furbaby doesn’t get their paws on limes, oranges, or grapefruit, as these fruits also contain linalool, limonene, and psoralens, the same toxic compounds found in lemons that can harm your cat.



Can cats eat lemon yogurt?

Yogurt can be a tasty treat for your kitty, but only if it’s plain and unsweetened. Even then, some felines can’t tolerate yogurt and can get an upset stomach from eating this dairy product. You can let your cat try plain yogurt, but you should definitely not give them lemon yogurt.



Is lemon potpourri safe for cats to smell?

Stovetop potpourri is an easy way to make your home smell amazing. Lemon is a common ingredient in simmer pot recipes, but you may want to leave it out or use a tiny fraction of what is recommended if you have a cat. Your cat will likely find the smell terrible, and they may even become irritated or stressed out by it. Be sure to keep your cat from sampling ingredients when you’re preparing your pot, and never leave simmering potpourri unattended.



Keeping lemons, as well as foods and drinks that use them as an ingredient, out of your cat’s reach is the best way to prevent your curious critter from getting into them and potentially ending up at the vet clinic. While lemon poisoning in cats is relatively rare and rarely fatal, it’s still important that you don’t take any chances when it comes to your cat’s health.


Digestive problems caused by lemon poisoning can be expensive to treat. Compare pet health insurance plans to save more than $270 a year on vet care.

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