Why Do Cats Hate Oranges?

Why Do Cats Hate Oranges?

Oranges are one of the most-loved fruits and are widely cultivated around the world. The plants originated from Southeast China, and are a hybrid between a pomelo and a mandarin plant. While humans enjoy the sweet and citrusy scent of oranges, cats hate them and have a strong aversion to the smell. 

Why do cats hate oranges?

While humans find oranges sweet and delectable, cats hate them because of their strong, citrusy scent. The feline sense of smell is superior to that of humans, and the citrus smell is too overpowering for them. 

They feel the same way about other citrus varieties like lemons, limes and grapefruits. After they have smelled them once, their reactions will be more intense the next time, since they are already aware of what to expect. The strong smell confuses cats and is also potentially toxic to them. 

Humans have up to five million olfactory receptors, while a cat has roughly 50 to 200 million. These olfactory receptors, also called odorant receptors, are the key elements of the entire sense of smell. They play an important part in a cat’s survival and in hunting its prey. They also help the cat to detect whether the food it is about to eat is potentially toxic or safe to consume.

Do all cats hate citrus?

No, not all cats hate citrus, just as there are cats that adore the scent of lavender, which is a common cat repellent. There are always exceptions to the rule, because every cat has its own temperament, personality and preferences. While most cats hate oranges, some pet owners confirm that their cats are not affected by the citrusy scent at all.

Surprisingly, cats cannot taste sweet flavors. Being obligate carnivores, cats require meat in their diet to get all their required nutrients. They therefore consume more animal sources and do not need fruit to complete their nutritional requirements. 

Do oranges keep cats away?

Most cats have a strong aversion to oranges and related fruits like lemons and grapefruit. Thus, orange and citrus-scented products, such as orange essential oil and orange-scented home cleaners, have become popular for keeping cats away from the kitchen, countertops and the garden or yard. These cat-repellent products enable you to better enjoy your garden, since cats won’t come near the area once they have detected the citrusy smell. 

Can cats eat oranges?

No, cats should not eat oranges. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes that eating an orange could harm your cat because of the essential oils that cannot be metabolized by the liver. Cats do not have the capacity to metabolize these substances in the same way that humans do. This makes oranges toxic to cats and, should they eat one, they might suffer from a bad case of diarrhea. 

Cats may also vomit due to the citric acid that could upset their stomach.  Studies claim that oranges can make cats depressed, and they could also become photosensitive. 

Should I let my cat smell an orange?

You can let your cat smell an orange, but do not force her if she does not want to. You could try holding it out to her and see if she will smell it out of curiosity. As mentioned earlier, not all cats are repelled by oranges; some actually enjoy the citrusy smell. Regardless, do not encourage your cat to eat an orange, for the sake of her health. 


Cats tend to be very particular about the smells around them. They have an advanced sense of smell at least 14 times better than that of humans, and a citrus smell is revolting to them because it is so strong. However, this does not mean that all cats hate oranges; some cats enjoy the citrusy scent.

Image: istockphoto.com / ValeriyNovikov