Pet Consider

Can Cats Eat Tangerines?

Can I Give My Cat Tangerines?

When most people think of pets begging for food, they imagine their relatives’ big, drooly golden retriever, who is constantly thrusting his head into their lap when they are sitting at the dinner table. Anyone who has a cat, however, can tell you that begging behavior is not limited to pets of the canine persuasion—cats will leap up on the table, stick their paws into your coffee mug, and generally scream at you until you finally give them a taste of whatever it is you are eating.

Though educated cat parents often have no issues with giving their feline friend a bite of turkey or chicken, they have learned to be wary of fruit. Grapes and raisins, we have learned, are extremely poisonous to cats. So, when winter rolls around and the only thing in season is citrus, should we share? Can cats have tangerines?

The answer is no, cats should not eat tangerines. Citrus fruits are considered among the best immunity-boosters for us humans, but they do not offer many health benefits for felines. That said, do not panic if you have already given your furry friend a couple segments of your tangerine—this food is not poisonous to cats in the way that grapes and raisins are. Do whatever you can to minimize your cat’s exposure to citrus fruits, but know that you probably will not need to induce vomiting if they eat a bite of a tangerine every now and then.

Health Benefits?

tangerineLimiting your cat’s tangerine consumptions should not be difficult because most cats loathe citrus fruits. If you drop a tangerine segment into your cat’s bowl at breakfast time, they very well may refuse to touch any of the kibble that has been ‘tainted’ by the smell of citrus. We tend to love the strong, sweet, energizing scent of fruits like oranges and lemon, but a touch of tangerine certainly will not make your cat’s mouth water.

People, dogs, and other omnivores have developed their sweet tooth over millions of years of evolution. Our tongues are loaded with taste buds that are set up to taste sweetness (sugar). Cats, on the other hand, do not even have the ability to taste sweet things. Even if we were to give them a mouthful of sugary soda, they would not be able to enjoy the sweet flavor. The complete and utter lack of a sweet tooth is why so many kitty parents struggle with convincing their cats to snack on any fruit at all—even if the fruits, like bananas or apples, are healthier than citrus!

Because we’ve spent most of our lives concerned with human nutrition, which stresses the importance of fruit, this may seem like a problem to us, but it really isn’t. Felines are obligate carnivores who have evolved to meet all of their dietary needs by eating the flesh of prey animals. Your cat’s ancestors lost their sweet tooth long ago, so they certainly were not eating citrus—yet they managed to survive just fine!

Oranges, tangerines, and other citrus fruits are often praised for their immunity-boosting powers. This is largely thanks to their high amounts of Vitamin C, which we humans have to eat in order to sustain healthy immune systems. If we don’t eat foods rich in Vitamin C, we can suffer from a repressed immune system, scurvy, and other illnesses. Our feline friends don’t have this problem! Assuming they are healthy, your cat’s body is already synthesizing all of the Vitamin C it needs to keep everything functioning properly. With a few exceptions, most cats who take in extra Vitamin C stand to benefit very little from it—the antioxidant properties may give them a bit of a boost, but there are better ways than citrus to give your cat antioxidants.

Simply put, tangerines are not going to offer many benefits for your cat. But uselessness is not the only reason to avoid citrus fruits. Tangerine seeds, rinds, and oils do contain some substances that can be toxic to cats. Even though a bit of citrus fruit is not likely to result in liver or kidney failure in the immediate future, it can cause other difficulties for your pet. Most cats who eat citrus wind up dealing with upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Things to Consider

Those who eat larger amounts of tangerine flesh may struggle with depression, low energy, lack of appetite, changes in behavior, and a sensitivity to light. These symptoms generally go away on their own within a week, but if they persist or worsen, you should consult a veterinarian.

Final Thoughts

So, while tangerines may be tasty for us, you probably should not share with your cat. There are no real health benefits associated with feeding felines citrus fruits, but there are a lot of drawbacks. If your cat consumes a small amount of tangerine, you do not need to induce vomiting—just keep an eye on them for the next several days to make sure they do not react poorly.


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