Many cat owners like sharing their plate with their feline friends. Luckily, cats can eat a wide variety of human food. However, being carnivores, their first choice is likely to be meat. Most of them are indifferent to fruits, although there are a few exceptions. Your cat will be intrigued by what you eat, so if you are enjoying an orange or orange juice, they may want to share. This sounds fine considering oranges are a good source of several minerals and vitamins, especially thiamine, potassium, folate, and Vitamin C among other nutrients. But nothing could be further from the truth. Oranges are appreciated for their sweet taste and health benefits to humans, but our feline friends have a different opinion.
Can cats drink orange juice? A simple answer is no! That’s because it contains citric acid, which can irritate your cat’s gut and cause them to vomit and diarrhoea. Orange juice also contains oil essentials, which cats are unable to digest as they lack glucuronyl transferase. A build-up of these oils in the body can be very toxic to cats, causing harm to their nervous system.
As mentioned earlier, cats are obligate carnivores and won’t particularly be interested in orange juice. Plus, sweet tastes aren’t that appealing to felines. Oranges have a distinct scent. If you consider the fact that a cat’s nose is far more sensitive than human’s, then the smell of oranges can become overwhelming to them. This alone is enough to turn your cat off, so much so that it’s often used to keep stray cats away. It’s unlikely that they’ll want to sniff orange juice, let alone drink it. That being said, older cats or cats in captivity can lose their natural instincts and temporarily become omnivores. Additionally, cats are naturally curious and will try to eat or drink anything. That’s why you need to understand this topic in-depth so you can ensure your cat’s safety. Read on for more information!
Can Cats Drink Orange Juice
There are several reasons why you should not give orange juice to your cat. The main issues are:
Orange juice contains essential oils that need glucuronyl transferase to metabolise. But unlike humans, cats don’t possess this material in their bodies. As a result, these essential oils (limonene and linalool) will build up in your cat to toxic levels. Also, cats’ bodies aren’t able to metabolize menthol found in oranges’ oil properly, making it toxic.
These are the second harmful compounds found in orange juice. They make skin sensitive to sunlight. Cats are already sensitive to the sun with their paper-thin skin, therefore adding oranges to their diet will make them struggle to cope even more. These compounds can also cause indigestion and depression in cats.
This might irritate or upset your cat’s stomach, causing them to start vomiting or suffer a severe case of diarrhoea. It also increases the risk of chronic stomach problems.
Some cats are allergic to oranges and will experience side effects just by being in close proximity. With such sensitive cats, skin contact with oranges or simply brushing against an orange tree can also cause swelling around the face, trouble breathing, itchy skin, itching and running eyes/nose, a breakout of hives, and even allergic dermatitis. All these side effects will cause your cat to experience a lot of discomforts.
Orange juice is often packed with sugar. Felines are susceptible to dental disease, so drinking orange juice can potentially cause issues with their teeth. If your cat develops dental diseases, he/she may be unable to eat their food altogether. Excessive sugars can also increase blood sugar levels in your cat, thereby causing issues with internal organs. What about sugar-free orange juice? Many often assume that orange juices that have sugar substitutes like xylitol are less harmful. The truth is there are few findings on xylitol not being toxic, probably because there are very few reported poisonings. Although this sugar substitute is only toxic to some cats, these other orange juice hazards are enough reason to keep your cat away from it.
Do Cats Need Vitamin C
One of the main reasons people eat oranges is that they are high in Vitamin C. Does this warrant giving your cat orange juice? No! Unlike humans, cats naturally produce Vitamin C in their liver. In case of deficiency due to illness, ask your vet to prescribe Vitamin C supplements.
Unlike several other animals, cats are unable to breakdown certain ingredients. You’ll find some holistic pet websites advocating that cats need small amounts of oranges’ oil. While this may not harm your cat, it’s important to consult your vet beforehand. If your cat drinks orange juice, they may experience citrus poisoning. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive drooling, and muscle weakness. They may also experience depression as the essential oils affect their hormones. That being said, every cat will react differently depending on how much juice they’ve taken and how much citrus their bodies can handle.
Ultimately, you may want to consider whether giving your cat something that has no proven health benefits and could potentially harm it is worth it.
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What Should You Do If Your Cat Drinks Orange Juice?
First of all, don’t panic, it’s not that serious. You don’t have to call the poison hotline either. What you’ll need to do is monitor their behaviour for the next few hours. That’s because when cats ingest something, it can take up to 10-24 hours to go through their digestive system. Keep a close eye on them to see if they have any immediate signs of distress.
If you see signs of citrus poisoning like lots of vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, and drooling, or if they develop an allergic reaction due to skin contact with orange juice, call the vet immediately. They’ll ask you about other symptoms that the cat is showing. Also, try to take note of how much the cat drunk. The more information you give to the vet, the better they’ll be able to recommend whether or not your cat needs emergency care. Although fatalities are rare, there is a possibility of liver damage, which is why it’s important to see the vet immediately.
Citrus scents are a natural cat repellent. So hopefully, your cat won’t drink orange juice in the first place. There are, obviously, a few exceptions to every rule. While it’s rare, some cats enjoy sweat tastes. It’s also possible that your cat likes orange juice through imitation as they tend to mimic their owners’ behaviours. If your cat sees you enjoying a glass of juice, they’ll assume it is tasty and want some as well. It’s better not to share in the first place and avoid all these side effects your feline friend might experience.
Treatment and Recovery
First off, no test can be administered to confirm if indeed your cat is suffering from citrus poisoning. The vet will heavily rely on the information that you give, so you have to be as descriptive as possible. In some case, the vet might use a thin tube (endoscope) to examine your cat’s stomach cavity to see if there are still pieces of the orange juice. Treatment will begin immediately after the vet has made a diagnosis of citrus poisoning.
The first possible solution that the vet might offer is to induce vomiting using a hydrogen peroxide solution, which is given to the cat orally. Once that is done, the vet might also administer activated charcoal, which helps to absorb any remaining toxins in the cat’s stomach. Alternatively, the doctor can do a gastric lavage –a stomach wash meant to flush out any remaining toxins.
The vet will constantly monitor the cat’s condition for the next few hours. If the cat becomes dehydrated, fluids can be administered via an IV. As mentioned before, citrus poisoning is rarely fatal. Your cat should be able to make a full recovery after this treatment. Be sure to talk to the vet about your cat’s diet because their stomach may still be sensitive after the treatment. The vet will recommend feeding him/her soft foods until they make a full recovery. Remember to remove any citrus fruits or juices from the house or keep them out of reach. If you have a citrus plant in the garden, keep the cat indoors or put a small fence around the garden. Last, but not least, check the labels of any shampoo, fragrance, and cleaning products that you use to ensure they don’t contain citrus oil extracts. If they do, you need to keep them away from your cat or stop using them altogether.
If your cat didn’t consume the orange juice but is experiencing skin irritation due to contact, the vet will only need to give him/her a bath to eliminate toxins and soothe irritated skin. The vet can then apply a topical corticosteroid cream to treat itchiness and inflammation.
Cats and orange juice should be kept far from each other. I have highlighted all the warnings associated with this, so don’t put your cat in unnecessary danger. Although most cats don’t like fruits, some have a sweet tooth. If your cat is one of them, there are several other safer options. For starters, a few chunks of watermelon (without seeds) are a better choice. It’s mostly made of water, meaning it’s hydrating and low in calories. Your cat will also enjoy the smell of blueberries and strawberries. As for apricot, their flesh has antioxidant properties that can help prevent cancer in cats. You must, however, remove the pits first because they contain cyanide, which can cause poisoning in cats. Other cat-friendly alternatives to orange juice are apples, pineapples, cantaloupes, etc.
We consume orange juice for its high level of Vitamin C, but cats produce this vitamin naturally in their body. This means that there’s no health reason to include orange juice in your cat’s diet. Cats should not drink orange juice or any part of the orange fruit for that matter.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.