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Does Lemon Juice Kill Fleas on Cats? Vet Reviewed Effectiveness & Safety Explained

Written by: Chris Dinesen Rogers

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team


Does Lemon Juice Kill Fleas on Cats? Vet Reviewed Effectiveness & Safety Explained


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


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

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Keeping our pets parasite-free is big business, with a projected 2026 global revenue of $3.68 billion1. Fleas are quite the nuisance on several fronts. These pests can cause allergic reactions in pets while increasing the risk of secondary infections if an animal breaks the skin with its scratching. Concerns also exist with zoonotic diseases you can get from a cat with fleas, such as tapeworms.

Research shows that one type of flea that is most problematic for pet owners, the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)2 can be killed by components of lemon juice, but that doesn’t mean you should use it on your kitty. We strongly urge you not to use any product with this ingredient on your cat, even if it does wipe out these pests. Learn why in this article.

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The Problem With Lemon Juice as a Flea Treatment

The reason lemon juice works, and you may see other blog posts touting its effectiveness, is an ingredient called limonene. This chemical gives lemons their pleasant taste and smell and is a major component of the oil in the fruit’s peel. Unfortunately, it’s also toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and fish. It’s not an approved pesticide, either.

vet checking a cat with stroke
Image Credit: Gleb Usovich, Shutterstock

Limonene is a skin irritant for all the above, including humans. Just think of how getting lemon juice in a fresh cut feels. Now imagine your cat with irritated skin from fleas and scratching. You get the picture.

Signs of poisoning include the following:
  • Loss of coordination
  • Tremors
  • Drooling
  • Impaired respiratory function
  • Vomiting
  • GI distress

But wait! There’s more! Lemon juice also contains ingredients called psoralens. Along with limonene, these chemical compounds can affect liver function.

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Other Issues With Lemons

If these reasons weren’t enough to sour your opinion about using lemon juice to treat fleas, perhaps this one will break the camel’s back. Felines don’t like the smell of citrus. Skin and nasal irritation are undoubtedly factors. Nonetheless, manufacturers often use these scents in cat-repellent products. It’s not hard to see the conflict of using one on your pet.

Safe Alternatives for Managing a Flea Problem

We recommend using a product formulated specifically for cats that is recommended by your vet for your cat’s particular situation. Do not use dog flea sprays on felines. The reason rests with a common ingredient in canine preventives called permethrin. While it is effective for dogs, it is lethal in cats, causing tremors and fatal seizures. It is one of the most common causes of poisoning in felines.

We suggest going with something commercially made because they are formulated for specific pests. Your vet can recommend a pill or a topical medication, some of which can last for 3 months and often treat other external parasites, as well. Conversely, natural or organic sprays are broad-spectrum, meaning they will harm whatever comes in contact with it, even non-targeted species. You can rest assured your pet will have ample protection against fleas and the complications they can cause with veterinary-recommended preventives.

One reason you’ll see lemon juice for fleas is its efficacy in all life stages, including eggs. Fleas are notoriously difficult to get rid of once your home is infested. The treatment typically involves fogging your home, which is time-consuming and problematic if you have indoor pets. However, ultimately, prevention is the best way to control fleas.

Woman at home holding her lovely Devon Rex cat on lap and gives it a pill
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Dealing with a flea problem isn’t fun for anyone, especially your pet. Of course, it’s essential to deal with an issue promptly for the safety of your family and your cat. Using a so-called natural product may sound promising; however, in the case of lemon juice, it’s just plain wrong. Lemon juice has naturally occurring chemicals that are toxic and potentially fatal to cats. Instead, commercial cat products will keep your kitty pest-free.

Featured Image Credit: izaqueualves, Pixabay

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