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Veterinary nurse Helen Crofts explains why cats turn their noses up at oranges and lemons.


We all know how important it is for us to get our five portions of fruit and veg a day and citrus fruits are one of the most popular fruits available. There is also something very seasonal about the smell of spices and oranges. It reminds us of winter and especially Christmas. Citrus fruits also find their way into our fruit bowls at this time of year with oranges, lemons and limes all ready to be added to a seasonal tipple. It’s also still popular to buy a few satsumas as a traditional Christmas stocking filler!

Cat sniffing oranges

As the sweet, juicy taste of satsumas, clementines and oranges brings a welcome hit of sweetness to our palates you can be forgiven for thinking that a little segment of fruit will be enjoyed by your cat too. However, cats have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and as citrus fruits are very aromatic, what smells heavenly to us is way too over the top for cats.

This dislike of citrusy scents can be turned to an owner’s advantage. If you want to discourage your cat from using a particular area of your garden as a toilet, leaving orange peel among the flowers may help persuade your cat to cease digging around your prize marigolds. The idea behind this is simply the cat smells the fruit, dislikes it and so wanders off. Interestingly, for cats who have come across this pungent smell before, it is likely that they will have an even stronger reaction to citrus smells than normal.

Ginger cat's nose and whiskers

Fortunately, this natural aversion to strong, citrusy smells means that cats tend to avoid eating it. This is just as well as ingesting citrus fruits can cause cats to experience gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting and diarrhoea. But don’t panic if your cat does sample a segment or have a lick of your fingers after you have eaten a particularly juicy orange; cats would need to consume an excessive amount to be in danger of any truly severe reactions.

For more information about what to feed your cat, visit

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