can cats eat oranges?
Cat Food and Hydration

Are Cats Allowed To Eat Oranges?

Oranges are a rich source of vitamin C, calcium, and water. If you’re trying to round out your cat’s diet with healthy foods, they seem like a good addition. However, a cat’s digestive system and biology are much different than our own. People can eat oranges without harm, but it can be dangerous for a cat. Cats obligate carnivores and can’t eat much plant matter, which is why they can experience a toxic reaction to citrus fruit.

Cats should not be fed oranges as studies suggest that citrus fruits are toxic. Cats cannot process the phenolic compounds or the essential oils, and they hate the smell of citrus. It’s used as a deterrent by many owners. While not all cats will get citrus poisoning from orange, some do react adversely.

The fruit itself should not be harmful to a cat. However, the peel, leaves, oils, and flowers of an orange plant can be harmful. That’s because they contain d-limonene and linalool, which can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy. It’s hard to separate the fruit from all these compounds, and cross-contamination may lead to illness.

Is It Safe For Cats To Eat Oranges?

The consensus is that cats should not eat oranges or other citrus fruits. As stated, the meat of the fruit itself is edible, but the leaves, skin, and stem can be harmful. Any cross-contamination can lead to sickness.

This consensus isn’t unfounded. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes that oranges are toxic to cats. This is due to essential oils and psoralens found inside the fruit.

Studies are still uncovering the different ways that citrus compounds affect a cat’s body. Some believe that even the natural oils in the fruit can be toxic. If not deadly, they can at least harm a cat’s health, especially if it’s young or elderly.

However, no scientific studies have confirmed that psoralens are toxic to domestic cats. Other substances present in oranges (or even citrus fruits in general) include linalool and d-limonene. While they’re believed to be harmful to cats, it’s worth noting that there have been no official studies to confirm it.

Can Cats Eat Oranges?

Since it’s so much of a grey area, feeding orange to a cat can be risky. Your cat may eat a peeled orange and feel no adverse effects. It may also take a few bites, grow ill in the coming days, or only feel bad after eating 2-3 oranges over several weeks.

That might all be a moot point since cats are obligate carnivores. This means they gain all their nutrients from meat and cannot properly digest plant matter. Although eating a veggie or fruit won’t lead to a full shut-down of their body, it can make them ill over time.

Mostly, this is because felines will struggle to extract the same amount of vitamins or nutrients from plants. For example, a single orange can fill up to 130% of a human’s daily need for vitamin C. However, a cat’s body will only process a fraction of that.

Oranges can also fill up valuable stomach space with food that cats are unable to digest properly. This limits their appetite for food that they actually can process. It also means that, in the coming days, the cat may suffer from constipation, diarrhea, and even vomiting as its body struggles to digest the food. 

So, even if oranges aren’t toxic to cats, you still shouldn’t offer them as a meal or a treat. These fruits have no place in a cat’s natural diet and are empty calories if not actively harmful.

are orange peels bad for cats?

How Can Oranges Be Harmful To Cats?

Oranges are toxic to cats because of the essential oils found in their peels. Specifically, these oils include:

  • D-limonene
  • Linalool
  • Psoralens

As supported by the ASPCA listing, these compounds may have toxic effects on animals, such as cats. While dogs and horses may also fall victim, cats are believed to be more susceptible to these essential oils. That’s because of:

  • How cats digest certain compounds, especially those in the phenol family
  • The fact that cats are smaller than other animals
  • Cats groom themselves by licking their fur, which increases the chances of ingesting phenols

Phenols have useful purposes in a human’s diet, and they give many plants their coloring. They can help repel UV radiation as well as parasites. However, cats react negatively, as they are unable to process these phenolic compounds. Instead, phenols build up in a cat’s liver until they reach a lethal degree.

This doesn’t just apply to what a cat eats but also to what it touches. For example, if you choose to buy pellet litter for your cat, experienced owners may already know to avoid those made of pine. Since pine bark contains a high level of phenol, it’s considered toxic to cats. It can lead to skin rashes, lethargy, and eventual liver damage.

Do Cats Like Oranges?

It is rare for a cat to like oranges. In fact, many owners note that their cats leave the area at the subtlest hint of orange. Because felines hate the smell of citrus, there’s a low chance of one even attempting to eat the fruit.

Why do cats hate the smell of oranges? The compounds found inside oranges are potent for a cat’s impressive sense of smell. Even for humans, slicing a fresh orange can be a sharp hit to the nose.

According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, cats can pick out more individual scents than dogs. Although they cannot smell odors at such a great distance, they still have powerful noses. That means your cat will be able to pick out every nuance of your strong citrus blast. That can be so overwhelming that the feline retreats from the area.

Of course, there will still be cats that try to eat an orange. Kittens and more curious felines are likely to put a slice in their mouth to gauge the flavor or texture. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep your fruits out of the cat’s reach.

Is The Smell Of Oranges Bad For Cats?

Cats may avoid the smell of oranges because of their sensitive noses. Does that make it physically bad for them, though? Should you avoid any citrus scents around your feline?

There is little evidence to show that the smell of oranges alone is enough to harm cats. Even if it did, most cats avoid the smell anyway. This is not necessarily because the smell is dangerous. Instead, it’s likely too fragrant.

Are Orange Peels Bad For Cats?

For cats, the peel is the most harmful part of an orange. That’s because it contains the highest amount of essential oils. These are responsible for the strong odor, which is why potpourri often utilizes orange peels instead of the fruit itself.

Indeed, orange peels are so concentrated with these oils that they’re often used as a cat deterrent. To stay on the safe side, it’s best to treat every part of an orange as toxic. Alongside the peel, the leaves, seeds, and bark of orange are considered toxic for cats.

Is Orange Essential Oil Harmful To Cats?

Orange essential oils may harm cats. Just like the fruit itself, there are limited studies on this topic. However, we can trust that it’s just as harmful as other essential oils for cats. The most active compounds will be:

  • Alpha-pinene
  • Citronellol
  • Geraniol
  • Sabinene
  • Myrcene
  • Limonene
  • Linalool
  • Neral

Some of these are believed to be toxic to cats, while others are used in pest control products. While a small amount should not immediately hurt your cat, it can result in health issues later on.

The consensus is to avoid orange essential oils in the same way you avoid the fruit. It might not harm your cat, but it’s not worth the risk.

Of course, that doesn’t mean all essential oils are off-limits to a cat. According to Veterinary Sciences, many studies are revealing that essential oils have an antimicrobial effect on animals.

However, this is in diluted amounts and when administered in controlled settings. If you’re diffusing orange oil into the air or rubbing it onto your cat’s skin, the danger of a reaction is far greater.

Can Oranges Kill Cats?

There is little evidence to say that ingesting oranges is fatal to cats. After all, you will often find tips online about using the smell of oranges to stop cats from biting cords or going on different surfaces.

There are few recorded instances of citrus essential oil poisoning in cats. There’s an even smaller number that has been studied in a scholarly manner. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of anecdotal evidence surrounding the adverse effects of using essential oils around cats.

As a rule of thumb, a bit of orange will not kill your cat. It will take multiple oranges to give your feline a harmful dose. Even then, most cats won’t try to ingest an orange simply because the smell is offensive.

is it safe for cats to eat oranges?

What Happens When If Cats Eat Oranges?

Cats that eat citrus may exhibit symptoms of citrus poisoning almost immediately. Of course, there will be some instances wherein cats eat citrus and feel perfectly fine. How citrus affects your cat (if it does at all) will depend on factors like:

  • Weight
  • The amount eaten
  • How the orange is prepared
  • The cat’s preexisting health status
  • Genetics
  • If the cat touches other parts of the fruit

When an orange gets onto a cat’s skin, it can also cause allergic dermatitis. Allergic dermatitis may look different from one cat to another. Common ways that it manifests are through hair loss and excessive itching.

When To Go To The Vet

Some cats will eat citrus without exhibiting any symptoms. However, if you believe that your cat has ingested oranges, make sure to supervise it for the next 24 hours.

If it begins displaying symptoms of orange poisoning, call your vet. There are no tests made specifically to diagnose orange poisoning in cats. Instead, your veterinarian will rely on the information you can give.

If possible, note down what and when your cat ate and any symptoms that your cat has exhibited. Symptoms of orange toxicity include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Weakness

If your vet wants to confirm the reason behind your feline’s symptoms, the expert may use an endoscope. An endoscope is a thin tube that allows a vet to look inside your cat’s stomach. If the fruit hasn’t been digested yet, your vet may see pieces of orange and can safely diagnose citrus poisoning.

How Citrus Poisoning Is Treated

If oranges came into contact with your cat’s skin, it might exhibit allergic dermatitis. If this is the case, your vet will treat your cat’s dermatitis with a bath to remove the toxins on its skin and fur. A topical corticosteroid will follow this to soothe any inflamed and itchy patches of skin.

If your cat ingested oranges, your vet may induce vomiting. This will be done by feeding your cat a hydrogen peroxide solution. Your vet may follow this with activated charcoal.

Induced vomiting puts your cat at risk of dehydration. It will need to be monitored for the next few days to ensure that it is drinking water and staying hydrated. Otherwise, your vet may use an IV drip.

It’s rare for a cat to reach this point. Most will dislike the smell of oranges and steer clear. Even if your cat does eat an orange or part of one, it’s unlikely to get citrus poisoning right away.