Lily poisoning in cats
- by DR Roxanne Jones
When you think of lilies, you think of pretty, innocuous flowers that we often have in our homes. But there’s a common group of lilies can be severely toxic to cats, causing serious illness or even death. And many of us have these in our homes without realising the danger.
Why you shouldn’t keep lilies in your home - even if you think your kitty isn’t at risk
You know the saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’? In the case of lilies, it may not be far from the truth. Even a little sniff of pollen from one of these flowers, or ingesting just one leaf, can be fatal to your cat. True, cats don’t usually go munching around on plants in the house, as most tend to be picky and smart eaters, and often don’t like to taste unusual foods.
However, every part of the plant is poisonous including the pollen, and your cat can come into contact with the toxins even without eating any part of the plant. For example, your kitty may brush past the plant, then lick the pollen off his coat, and that alone could be a killer. Even just inhaling the pollen is potentially lethal.
And of course, if your kitty is particularly adventurous and occasionally nibbles on plants, it’s another reason to ban these flowers from your house. It’s also worth remembering that kittens are curious by nature and may be particularly at risk.
Which types of lilies are poisonous to cats?
While you should be cautious with all types of lilies, the ones that are most dangerous are:
- Easter lilies
- Stargazer lilies
- Tiger lilies
- Red lilies
- Asiatic lilies
- Japanese lilies
- Rubrum lilies
Symptoms of lily poisoning in cats
Watch out for the sudden onset of the following symptoms:
- Not eating
- Becoming very sick very quickly
If you notice any of these symptoms, get your cat to the vet as soon as you can. Lily poisoning causes acute (quick onset) kidney failure in cats, and if left untreated, it can result in the death of your beloved kitty.
The longer it’s left untreated, the more damage the toxins will cause to the kidneys, and the more difficult it will become to treat. If left too long, and if the damage is too severe, lily poisoning will be fatal to your cat.
What to expect at the vet
Try to give as thorough a clinical history as you can, as this will help your vet to make an accurate diagnosis. If lily poisoning is diagnosed or suspected, your vet will most likely:
- Perform blood tests
- Take urine samples
- Admit your kitty to hospital
- Put your cat on a drip
- Treat your kitty for kidney failure
If treatment is started very soon after poisoning, when the clinical signs are first detected, the damage done to the kidneys can be reversible and your cat can recover. However, in some cases the damage may be irreversible, especially if left untreated.
Are any kinds of lilies safe for my cat?
Certain types of lilies such as calla lilies, arum lilies and peace lilies are also poisonous to cats but won’t cause kidney failure. They usually cause lesions in the mouth and gastric upset if eaten - symptoms may include drooling, diarrhoea and vomiting.
When it comes to lily poisoning, prevention is key - and it’s so easy. Simply make sure you don’t have any of these plants in your house. That said, they are beautiful flowers and very common, especially around Easter and Christmas time, but they are best avoided if you have kitties.
As a pet owner, it’s always a good idea to exercise caution when bringing new plants into your house. And if something like lilies end up your home, make sure they are placed in a spot where there is no way your cat can get to them, keeping in mind that cats are curious and agile creatures that can get almost anywhere!
Sometimes the most surprising things can be poisonous to your pet. Here are 10 foods you may not have known are poisonous to your cat. And don’t forget: if ever you are worried about your pet’s symptoms, take them to the vet right away.
Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The Zuki.co.za blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.