Out of all the plants that are toxic to your cat, lilies are the most dangerous. It’s well worth a reminder not only at Easter time when Easter lilies abound, but anytime throughout the year when people are purchasing flowers for their home or as gifts. It is simply too easy for a cat to accidentally be put at risk of lily poisoning and certain death when a lily plant is presented by an uninformed person or pet parent.
It’s not just Easter Lilies
Easter lilies are very popular, but there are many types of lilies besides the Easter lily that are highly toxic. The list also includes Tiger lilies, Day lilies, Asiatic hybrid lilies, Japanese show lilies, Rubrum lilies, Stargazer lilies, Red lilies, Western lilies, and Wood lilies. Be safe and don’t try to discriminate.
Florists typically include at least one lily in practically every floral arrangement they provide. Therefore, always request no lilies if sending an arrangement to a pet owner.
Also, beware of unsuspecting guests who may bring flowers into your home not realizing they are putting your cat in danger. Please inspect every plant that is presented to you, and remove it from your home if there is any doubt about its safety.
How ingesting a lily affects your cat
Cats are curious creatures, and a plant is meant to be investigated. Therefore, it’s extremely important to know that all parts of the Lily are highly toxic to cats. Even if your cat ingests a small amount, as little as two or three petals or leaves, it can kill them under the radar weeks and sometimes even months later. Even the pollen or water from the vase is just as toxic as the plant itself.
When a cat chews any piece of any type of lily, the toxins immediately have an adverse effect on its kidneys. Remember, the kidneys are meant to remove toxic wastes from the body. However, when the toxin is so overwhelming that these substances cannot be adequately removed, the stage is set for kidney failure. The pet develops excess thirst, nausea and vomits. They experience pain, weakness, appetite loss, intestinal bleeding, and even seizures.
By the time the diagnosis of kidney failure is made, the disease has taken hold. Emergency treatment includes decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving binders like activated charcoal), aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, anti-vomiting medication, kidney function monitoring tests, blood pressure monitoring, urine output monitoring, and supportive care. Treatment typically requires three days of hospitalization. Even then, the cat’s kidneys can eventually shut down with a fatal outcome.
If you suspect lily poisoning, seek help immediately
If you think your cat has consumed any part of a lily plant, take your cat and the plant immediately to a veterinarian for medical care. Get familiar with the Emergency page on our website for after-hours instructions on where to go. When in doubt, call the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680 for life-saving information.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital