It’s always good to share, right?
You share your home with your feline friend so why wouldn’t share a little food with them too?
But is it actually safe for your cat to human foods? And what about some of the more unusual items like…orange juice?
Can cats drink orange juice and is it safe? The essential oils in oranges are considered toxic for cats and the juice isn’t much better so it’s best to completely avoid giving your cat orange juice. Not only is orange juice mildly toxic, but the high sugar content will likely lead to an upset digestive tract and diarrhea.
Let’s dive a little deeper into why orange juice is best avoided along with some better options for sharing with your cat. The first thing we need to consider is what your cat would naturally eat and it certainly isn’t orange juice!
Cats Are Obligate Carnivores
Cats are considered obligate carnivores which means they absolutely need meat in order to get all their required nutrients. For cats, skipping meat just isn’t an option and there’s no such thing as a vegan cat. While cats can digest plant material in small amounts, they evolved for millions of years with a completely plant-free diet. According to Chewy, “Cats’ systems are unable to digest all of the plant; therefore, they throw up to rid their bodies of the undigested part.” Some scientists even suggest that cats eat plants in order to vomit and clear their digestive system.
But plants don’t just cause GI unrest, cats have evolved to be such committed carnivores that they can’t actually get their required nutrients from plants and need animal tissues to get all their vitamins and minerals.
For example, most people know that carrots are a good source of vitamin A for people but it’s actually beta-Carotene that’s doing the work here. That’s because we’re able to convert the beta-Carotene in carrots into the essential vitamin A. But no matter how many carrots our feline friends eat they’ll never be able to complete the same conversion. Instead, they need animal sources of vitamin A and one of the richest sources is the liver.
So not only are plant-based foods like orange juice way outside what our cats would normally eat, the vitamins they contain don’t necessarily benefit our cats the way they would for us.
Oranges Are Toxic To Cats
According to the ASPCA, oranges are considered toxic for cats due to the essential oils they contain. Essential oils are the concentrated liquids of plants and even though orange juice doesn’t have the same concentration as a bottle of pure essential oils, it’s still considered toxic to cats. According to VCA Veterinary Hospitals, essential oils are so toxic to cats that “Only a couple of licks or a small amount on the skin could be harmful to a cat, depending on the ingredients in a specific product and how the pet is exposed.”
Cats suffering from essential oil toxicity may show drooling, difficulty walking, skin irritation, and more. As always, the dose makes the poison and while orange juice will contain much less essential oil as compared to a bottle used for potpourri or aromatherapy it’s still best to avoid exposing your cat to it entirely.
Cats Can’t Taste Sweet Things
The fact that oranges are toxic to cats makes it an easy decision to just avoid it altogether. But before you get disappointed that your cat won’t ever get to taste the sweet flavor of a freshly squeezed orange, you should know that cats can’t even taste sweet flavors! Scientists found that cats completely lack the required receptors that would allow them to taste sweet in the way that we do. Instead, it’s likely that they don’t taste anything at all or it’s simply overpowered by other flavors.
Again, this ties back to your cat’s evolutionary history. Taste helps animals find the right foods and avoid bad ones. Because sweet plants have little nutritional value to our cats, the tastebuds to pursue sweet treats were never reinforced.
So your cat really isn’t missing anything when it comes to skipping the orange juice!
Cats Don’t Like Citrus
As if orange juice on its own wasn’t bad enough for cats, you should also consider that most cats hate the smell of citrus. There are also dozens and dozens of videos showing cats sniffing an orange and then running away because of how much they dislike the smell of oranges.
But why is this?
While we can’t know for sure, we do know that cats have a sense of smell that’s more than 6 times stronger than our own. So the way we smell is orange is most certainly very different from what our cat is experiencing. There’s a chance that the powerful and potent aroma of oranges and other citrus is just too much for the powerful nose of our cats.
When you consider that they can’t even taste sweet, it’s not surprising that whatever they are smelling isn’t great!
So Do Cats Even Like Orange Juice?
When we consider that cats can’t taste sweet, prefer meat to plants, and do their best to avoid the smell of citrus it’s a wonder that any cat would actually drink orange juice in the first place!
So why would a cat even try to drink orange juice?
While I don’t have a clear answer, it’s likely that some cats just want to try something new. Cats are well known for their love of novel water sources and by best guess for why they’d go for orange juice is that it’s just a new liquid in a new location.
It also depends on what’s mixed in with the orange juice. While not as popular in the United States, drinks like the Morir soñando, which is a mix of orange juice and milk, could certainly encourage a cat to try a few sips! That’s because your cat would be attracted to the smell and taste of the fat-filled milk.
What’s A Better Treat For Cats?
While orange juice is clearly not a great option for cats there are still plenty of liquids that cats can drink as a tasty treat. Let’s take a quick look at some of my favorites:
Bone broth makes a great treat for cats. It’s perfectly in line with what your carnivorous kitty would eat and bone broth is also jam-packed full of cat-friendly nutrients. You can make it on your own or purchase it ready to go on Amazon. Bone broth is also lower in calories so you can manage your cat’s weight while letting them enjoy the finer things!
Tuna is a well-known feline treat but you can also serve just the water to give your cat a lower calorie but high flavor treat! But like anything else, it’s best in moderation and tuna should never make a majority of your cat’s diet.
While most cats are lactose intolerant, which means cow’s milk is out of the picture, they can drink goat’s milk. You can read this study to learn the science behind this but goat’s milk can make a great and more unique treat for your feline friend. Since I’m not drinking it myself, I like to go with the powdered version (you can see it here on Amazon) so I can make small batches at a time.
While people may love orange juice, there really isn’t a single benefit to feeding it to our cats. The essential oils it contains are toxic and feline can’t taste sweet or properly digest plant-based foods. So there’s no reason to offer our cat orange juice- especially when you consider that there are plenty of other great treats that are not only healthy but also tasty for our feline friends!