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Can Cats Have Oranges?

Renee Whitmore
Last Updated on
by Renee Whitmore

There’s nothing like a juicy orange on a hot summer’s day or a glass of crisp, chilled orange juice with breakfast. For humans, that is. Cats, on the other hand, can do without.

Cats are funny creatures, and most are very different from dogs and do not beg for “human food.” Cats, unlike dogs, are obligate carnivores; dogs are considered omnivores. This categorization means that cats require diets that are almost entirely meat. Because cats cannot truly digest fibrous foods easily, they tend to dislike a variety of human foods that a dog would most likely love. 

Can cats eat mandarin oranges but not other types? While oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C for humans, cats should not eat oranges, including mandarin oranges or any citrus fruit like lemons and limes.

Please keep reading to learn more about why cats cannot eat oranges, why citrus fruits are bad for cats, and what you should do if your cat eats an orange.

Can Cats Eat Oranges?

Can Cats Eat Oranges
Cat In Front of Oranges

Can cats have oranges? The short answer is no. Oranges are bad for cats and should not be given as treats or other additions to their diet.

The long answer is that even though oranges are toxic to cats, it is probably not something you will have to worry about, as it depends on your cat’s personality. Some rare cats love human food and act much like dogs who get into everything.

But most cats aren’t too interested in human food unless it has some meat in it. Most cats often turn their noses up at citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. They have a natural aversion to their robust and citrusy odor, which is a good thing as it means most cats tend to avoid eating oranges.

Why Are Oranges Bad for Cats?

For humans, oranges have many nutritional benefits. They are a good source of potassium, calcium, and vitamin C. However, these human health and nutrition benefits of oranges are not the same for cats.

Oranges are highly acidic and contain compounds and essential oils toxic to cats and can upset their digestive systems. Even though these essential oils smell incredible to humans, they are a turn-off for cats, who have much more sensitive noses.

Orange peels and other parts of an orange, such as the seeds and leaves, tend to contain more essential oils than the fruit flesh. This trait means that all parts of an orange should be considered toxic and off-limits for your cats.

Even if the essential oils in oranges were safe for cats to consume, oranges also contain a lot of sugar, which is not great for your kitty.

Is Citrus Bad for Cats in General?

All citrus fruits can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, aka an upset stomach, diarrhea, and/or vomiting if consumed. The essential oils in citrus fruits, such as limonene, linalool, citronellol, and the compound psoralen, are all toxic to cats.

Although rare, some cats may also experience skin irritation if they rub up against these fruits. However, as mentioned above, cats with their sensitive noses tend to avoid citrus fruits.

In addition, cats produce their own vitamin C, so they don’t need to have that in their diet. Cats’ bodies excrete excess vitamin C as the compound oxalate. Consuming an excess of vitamin C leads to a buildup of calcium oxalate stones in their urinary tract, which can be very painful and even life-threatening.

Can Oranges Kill Your Cat?

In general, a little orange will not kill your cat. It takes a large amount of orange to give them a harmful dose.

A few recorded occurrences of citrus essential oil poisoning have led to death in cats, but that is rare. There is currently not enough evidence surrounding the use of pure essential oils, such as diffusing essential oils or rubbing them on your cat’s skin and their effects on cats.

It is probably best to avoid diffusing any citrus oils around your cat, though, and best to not use them for bathing your cat.

What to Do if Your Cat Ate Oranges

If your cat happens to eat an orange, it is best to keep a close eye on them for a few days. Cats need to have consumed an excessive amount of citrus to be in danger. Monitor your cat and see if they start to vomit, become lethargic, or stop eating. If any of these occur, take your cat immediately to a veterinarian.

Not all cats will react to citrus poisoning the same. Some cats can eat an orange or lick a lemon and be fine, while others will respond adversely.

If you monitor your cat for a few days and act normally, you can still follow up with your local veterinarian for a blood test to ensure they’re okay. It’s better to be safe than sorry if you are concerned and put your mind at ease.


Frequently Asked Questions

There are a few more frequently asked questions that come up commonly for cat owners related to whether cats can have oranges:

Can Cats Eat Orange Peels?

No, like oranges and other citrus fruits, the essential oils in orange peels are also toxic to cats, and your cat should not eat them. The peel is the most harmful part of an orange for your cat as it contains the highest amount of chemical compounds and essential oils.

Is the Smell of Oranges Bad for Cats?

No, even though oranges are toxic to cats, there is little evidence that the smell of oranges alone can harm your cat.

Can Cats Eat Orange Chicken?

As you cannot be sure what other ingredients are in orange chicken, for example, garlic is also toxic to cats, it is best not to let your cat eat orange chicken.

Can Cats Eat Bananas?

Yes, bananas are cat-safe, and cats can consume them. However, they should be considered a treat for cats and not make up a majority of their diet.

Can Cats Eat Apples?

Yes, cats can eat apples, as long as they do not have the skin on them. 

Can Cats Eat Strawberries?

Strawberries are not toxic for cats and are considered safe for your cat to eat, although they should be given to your cat in moderation.

Food Questions
About Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.
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