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Can Cats Eat Lemongrass? What You Need to Know!

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By Chelsea Mortensen

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Lemongrasses make up several species of grass known for their strong, lemony scent. They are also sometimes called citronella grasses. Lemongrasses have many different uses today—from disinfectants to garden plants to seasoning—and are a popular source of essential oils as well.

But what will happen if your cat eats lemongrass? Because lemongrass is only a mild toxin to cats, most applications aren’t likely to cause a reaction. But if you keep lemongrass plants or lemongrass-based essential oils in your house, you should be aware of their potential dangers.

What Makes Lemongrass Toxic?

Lemongrass gets its scent from a compound called citronella. This blend has a strong, fresh scent and flavor. It is useful as a mild disinfectant and essential oil. Lemongrass can, however, be mildly poisonous to cats. The citronella in lemongrass is mostly harmless in small doses, but in larger doses, can cause intestinal upset, swelling, and intestinal blockages.

If you keep a small lemongrass plant in your house, don’t be too worried—the amount that your cat can reasonably eat isn’t enough to cause more than a mild upset stomach.

Lemongrass Essential Oils

Lemongrass essential oil bottle
Image Credit: Mã-minh, Pexels

Lemongrass is a popular ingredient in essential oils. In its concentrated form, it can be a greater problem. Essential oils from lemongrass are often marketed under the names lemon, lemongrass, and citronella. It may also be a common ingredient in citrus blends. These oils all contain citronella in a concentrated form, which is more potent to cats than the fresh plant.

Essential Oil Poisoning in Cats

Essential oils are potentially dangerous to cats in their concentrated form. Cats cannot metabolize concentrated essential oils properly, and if ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause serious health problems. Some of the essential oils known to have the highest risks include peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil. Although lemongrass essential oil has a low index of toxicity, it’s still best to keep it out of your cat’s reach.


sick cat covered in blanket lies on the window in winter
Image Credit: Germanova Antonina, Shutterstock

Symptoms of essential oil poisoning in cats can include vomiting, tremors, lowered heart rate, and more seriously, liver failure. Ingestion or absorption of lemongrass-based oils can also lead to these symptoms, but most cases are mild. With proper care, the citronella should work through your cat’s system without issue.


If your cat has been exposed to lemongrass in large amounts, and they are showing symptoms, get them to a safe place. Make sure your cat is comfortable and remove any potential hazards. It’s best to contact your veterinarian to determine if they should be brought in for an evaluation or monitored at home. If your cat needs to seek veterinary care, treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms. Diagnostic tests like bloodwork and x-rays (in the case of an intestinal blockage) may be necessary. Some possible treatments include inducing vomiting, stomach decontamination to remove traces of citronella, intravenous fluids, and anti-nausea medication.

Best Grasses for Cats

Lemongrass in small amounts should not pose a serious risk. So if it is part of your garden, you most likely don’t need to change it. But if your cat shows an interest in biting or chewing on lemongrass, you may want to replace it with a non-toxic grass for your cat to bite. Some good options include oat grass, wheatgrass, and alfalfa—all of these grasses grow easily and are not harmful to your cat’s health.

Last Thoughts

Lemongrass plants are unlikely to harm your cat in small amounts, but it’s still best to redirect your cat to a safer plant when it comes to nibbling. There are many different types of grass that are safe for cats and won’t cause poisoning. Lemongrass essential oils are a different matter—if you think your cat has been exposed to lemongrass essential oils, watch closely for signs of poisoning and contact your veterinarian.

Featured Image Credit: WonderfulBali, Pixabay

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