Cat Health

Is Lemon Pepper Bad For Cats? 3 Things You Should Do if They Ingest Lemon Pepper

How do you compensate for being absent for almost the entire week every month of the year? Barbecue nights! I am always tired from the stress of work each day and I don’t get to spend much time with my family. So I try to make the most of our weekends together—grilling!

I make my lemon pepper spice myself and to make the taste more intense, I add more ratio of black pepper to lemon zest. My daughter will never offer our cat foods made with lemon pepper spice; be it pepper chicken or tuna, as she has learned from experience.

So, is lemon pepper bad for cats? About eight months ago, after one of our usual barbecue weekends, I noticed my cat was trying so hard to mask his pain. I later figured my daughter fed him some lemon pepper pork. So, I instantly connected with my vet, and we were able to steady the cat.

Table of Contents

What is Lemon Pepper

Lemon pepper can be anything. For me, it’s one of the best spices for marinating fish beef, and chicken. It is made with a lemon zest granule which is usually the main ingredient, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and cracked pepper.

In preparing this spice, you need to zest the lemon and ensure it’s only the outer part of the peel and nothing more because if you zest both the white part, your sauce will become bitter. This zest lemon is then crushed or ground together with the cracked black pepper, mixed with the onion and garlic pepper with the addition of salt to make the flavor pop.

Is Lemon Pepper Bad for Cats

Yes! Lemon pepper is bad for cats. Lemon pepper contains lots of lemon peel, black pepper, garlic, onion powder, and salt. These ingredients are known to have adverse effects on cats, causing kidney failure or death in some cases.

Lemon pepper may not harm your cat in small quantities, but it’s best not to test if your feline friend will survive through a treat of lemon pepper tuna, just as my ragdoll fell sick from eating the barbecued chicken fed to him by my daughter. Below are the ingredients present in lemon pepper spice that could trouble your cat.

Can cats eat lemon pepper?

Technically, cats can eat some lemon pepper without having anything to worry about. In a few instances, my cat has eaten lemon pepper chicken courtesy of my little daughter, and there was no adverse effect, but this doesn’t mean it is safe to make lemon pepper chicken a constant treat that your cat copuld munch on.

If your cat was accidentally exposed to the lemon pepper seasoning in small amounts, there is nothing to worry about. However, you should understand that cats have no need for any of the ingredients in lemon pepper and they could adversely affect your cat in certain amounts, which is why you should avoid feeding them to your cat.

Ingredients In lemon pepper and how they affect your cat.

Lemon pepper can never be complete without any of these ingredients. This spice takes grilling to another level. Beyond grilling, most people use it to marinate their meats before baking or frying.

I can keep going on and on about why lemon pepper is a great kitchen spice for humans, but this is not about us, is it? Lemon pepper for cats is not a good idea, have you seen a cat that ate some grape seeds? They react terribly, and that’s the way your kitty will react if it consumes onion powder. here is a list of ingredients used in lemon pepper:

Onion and Garlic

The garlic and onion used in making lemon pepper are in granulated form. The fresh onions and garlic are dried using the oven or direct sunlight. These dried onions and garlic are then grounded into a powdered form which is more concentrated than fresh onions.

The granulated form constitutes over %15 of the entire lemon pepper spice. A pinch of onion powder may not cause toxicity in cats but 600 to 800 grams in a single meal or spread across subsequent meals in a few days will cause onion poisoning in your cat.

Onion poisoning in cats can lead to anemia and hypoxia in the organs. The onion affects your cat by depleting its red blood cells. Subsequent symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Lemon Zest

The lemon zest is the reason behind the intense taste of the lemon pepper spice. The zest is extracted by different methods, either it’s taken from the lemon whole or the peels are stripped, dried, and ground.

Although lemon is toxic to cats, the peel is not as toxic as the juice, but I will advise you against giving your cat lemon pepper. Sometimes, your kitty may have an underlying disease/weakened immune system that you may not be aware of, giving it chicken or fish dipped/grilled in lemon pepper even in little amounts may lead to severe reactions.

Cracked black pepper

Cracked black pepper has a coarse texture which makes it distinct in any spice it’s used in. It has an aggressive bold and intense flavor that dominates the majority of other flavors. This makes black pepper the right choice for most dishes and spices.

However, your cat only tastes bitter, sour, and salty things. It cannot taste sugar or spice, that is why it’s irrelevant to feed him foods or treats that contain spice or sugar.

Also, black pepper is used as an effective feral and domestic cat repellent because of how it interferes with the cat’s sense of smell. A cat has 40 to 80 million olfactory receptors and they rely on these receptors to get by; know other cats who are in heat, perceive marked territories, and detect anomalies.

Black pepper contains piperine which is responsible for its pungent odor. Giving your cat lemon pepper will only irritate its respiratory system. Symptoms of black pepper poisoning include vomiting, excessive drooling, upset stomach, shock, and depression.


There are two basic salts used in making lemon pepper spice: our regular table salts and kosher salt. Our regular table salt is purer since it was refined to ensure all naturally occurring minerals are removed, but when these minerals are extracted, the regular table salt may not make your spice pop which is why kosher salt is preferred.

Kosher salt hardly contains additives, and any food you use it on gets impacted by its salinity. Most chefs will swear by the effect of kosher salt in their spices and dishes. In as much as kosher salt is a joy to we that love the kitchen, is it safe for our cats?

Your cat can eat salt, but salts contain sodium and your feline friend should not have more than a specified amount of sodium daily. A quarter spoonful of regular table salt and kosher salt contains 580mg and 480mg of sodium respectively. A cat’s daily intake of sodium should be 1.25g/kg of its weight. If it exceeds it, there is likely a chance of sodium poisoning.

What to Do If Your Cat Eats Lemon Pepper

If your cat eats little food/meat made with lemon pepper, they are likely not going to show any signs of toxicity/poisoning. However, a continuous or large dose of lemon pepper spice may stir up severe symptoms of onions or sodium or black pepper poisoning. Although, we advise prevention, in a case where it has already happened, what should you do?

Stay relaxed

It can be very hard to stay calm when your lovely pet is in pain, but this is the best option as your cat will feel your tension if you become visibly tensed — your feline friend is likely going to become tensed too.

Inform The Vet

Observe your cat’s symptoms thoroughly. If you’re able to narrate your cat’s condition properly, your vet is going to get a clearer picture and provide you with information on first aid or the vet would ask you to bring the cat over.


At times, the cat will recover without any medications(in cases of mild poisoning)  while in severe cases, your feline friend may require IV flush, injection, and supportive care afterward. Be it a severe or a mild case, ensure to follow up on medications if any, and observe the cat for any strange behavior and keep the vet updated.


Lemon pepper is the glory of chefs when it comes to grilling, it gives you all the intense flavor of lemon that makes you dig more and more into the grilled poultry or fish but it is not safe for cats. It can cause severe illness for your pet as all 4 major ingredients used in making lemon pepper is toxic to cats(onion, salt, black pepper, lemon zest).

Your cat should do just fine with its high-quality kibble foods, if you must give them treats, you can try exotic fruit like guava or you can get creative with pumpkin, chicken, and tuna without adding any unwanted spice that could harm your cat’s health.

Joshua Kaynard

I am Joshua kaynard, an avid cat lover. Our pets provide an excellent way of connecting with nature; I am committed to helping you understand all the aspects of your feline friend's life. Enjoy!

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