Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Can Cats Eat Tangerines? Vet-Reviewed Diet Facts & FAQ

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Can Cats Eat tangerine

Can Cats Eat Tangerines? Vet-Reviewed Diet Facts & FAQ


Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Tangerines, often known as mandarins, are citrus fruits that people eat as quick, healthy snacks. They are tasty, sweet, and filled with antioxidants. They can provide health benefits to people, including reduced cholesterol, prevention of stomach ulcers and kidney stones, improved blood sugar levels, and a decreased risk of heart disease.

Since tangerines are such a beneficial fruit for people, it makes sense that we want to share these benefits with our cats. But can cats eat tangerines? Are tangerines healthy for cats?

Unfortunately, cats should not eat tangerines or any other citrus fruit. They are not healthy for cats and parts are actually toxic to them. Let’s find out more about why cats should not eat this fruit.

yarn ball divider

Essential Oils in Tangerines

Essential oils and psoralens are found in citrus fruit and are toxic to cats in large doses. They are present in citrus plants in the stems and leaves, while also in the peels and seeds. Citric acid is also found in citrus fruits and is part of the reason that citrus fruits have a tart flavor and taste so good to people. While it’s safe for humans, it’s not safe for dogs or cats.

If a cat eats a small amount of citric acid, they will likely experience an upset stomach or irritation to the esophagus or stomach lining. This isn’t considered serious, and signs will go away on their own.

If a cat eats large amounts of citric acid or essential oils, though, it can depress their central nervous system.

tangerine essential oil
Image by: Tatevosian Yana, Shutterstock

What if My Cat Eats a Tangerine?

Depending on the amount that your cat ate, you should contact your vet right away. If they just took one or two bites of the fruit pulp, they may only experience an upset stomach, and vomiting and diarrhea can occur.

If your cat eats most of the fruit, they could have an extreme reaction. Call your vet right away if you notice that your cat is:

  • Vomiting or having diarrhea repeatedly
  • Having trouble breathing
  • Refusing to move or experiencing lethargy
  • Refusing food and water
  • Passing blood in the stool

If a cat gets citric acid or essential oils on their skin, they may also have a reaction. They can develop dermatitis from a reaction to the oils. Watch for signs of irritation on the skin, especially around the mouth and paws, if your cat has eaten a tangerine.

Treatment for Citric Acid Poisoning

If your vet determines that your cat is suffering from citrus fruit poisoning, treatment will need to start right away. Your vet may induce vomiting and give your cat activated charcoal to absorb any leftover toxins in their system.

Your cat may need fluids for dehydration and will be monitored until their condition starts to improve. This could mean leaving your cat at the vet.

Citric acid from fruit is not likely to be fatal in cats, but being very unwell is a possibility, depending on how much was consumed and how quickly you sought treatment once signs set in. Your cat may need a special diet after leaving the hospital while their stomach is still healing.

tangerines in white background
Image by: kinkates, Pixabay

Are Tangerines Healthy for Cats?

Tangerines are full of health benefits for people, but they are not beneficial to cats. You don’t have to worry that your cat is missing out on healthy food. Cats are obligate carnivores. This means their bodies cannot get the required nutrients that they need from plants alone. Cats require meat from animal sources in their diets. They get all their necessary nutrients to stay healthy from meat.

Tangerines and other citrus fruits, while tasty and healthy for people, do not belong in a cat’s diet.

Do Cats Like Tangerines?

Usually, cats are not attracted to citrus. There’s even a story about placing tangerines around a Christmas tree to keep cats away from it. Tangerines give off a citrus scent that cats can pick up with their sensitive noses. They don’t like this scent, so they steer clear of the fruit.

However, this isn’t the rule for all cats, and some may be more curious than others. Since tangerines are toxic to cats, we don’t advise keeping them out for your cat to investigate and possibly consume. Always keep citrus fruits out of reach of your cat.

Cats also tend not to like tangerines because they lack taste buds that can taste sweetness. The gene that creates the ability to taste sweetness was eliminated in cats long ago. Since they lack the receptor for sweetness, they aren’t attracted to sweet foods — at least, not in the same way that people are.

3 cat face divider

Can Cats Eat Any Fruit?

Even though a cat’s diet should primarily be meat, there are a few fruits that they can eat occasionally as healthy treats. Fruits should only make up 2% of your cat’s diet and only be given as snacks that are separate from their daily diet. Here are fruits that you can safely feed your cat in moderation, along with the health benefits that they offer:

  • Bananas: vitamins B6 and C, potassium
  • Watermelon: extra hydration (but high in sugar, so cats with diabetes should avoid it)
  • Strawberries: vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber
  • Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries: antioxidants, vitamins A and C
  • Apples (avoid seeds): calcium, vitamin C
  • Mangos (avoid skins and seeds): fiber, vitamins A and C
  • Pineapple (avoid canned): magnesium, potassium
  • Cantaloupe: vitamin C, fiber, low calorie

It is important to note that cats make their own vitamin C and don’t have a requirement for extra. It could lead to the formation of calcium oxalate stones in the urinary tract if eaten in excess.

cat about to eat a watermelon
Image by: Skarynka Alena, Shutterstock

How to Feed Safe Fruits to Your Cat

Keep fruit at or below 2% of your cat’s daily diet. It can be used to substitute cat treats, especially if you’re looking for your feline to drop a few pounds. It’s a low-calorie way to give your cat a healthy snack.

You can give your cat fresh or frozen fruit that is cut up into small, bite-sized pieces. You can offer these bits throughout the day like you would other treats or use them as rewards for your cat’s good behavior.

cat paw divider

Final Thoughts

Cat and citrus fruits don’t mix. Cats should not eat tangerines and won’t experience the same health benefits from them that people do. Cats usually aren’t attracted to tangerines, anyway, because they don’t tend to like citrus scents and can’t taste sweetness.

If your cat does eat part of a tangerine, keep your eye on them for signs of citric acid poisoning. If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to the vet right away for treatment. If caught early, cats can make a full recovery.

Featured Image Credit: kinkates, Pixabay

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Catster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.