Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Cats and Lilies: A Deadly Mix

Late last spring I walked into my neighbor's kitchen for a cat-sitting job to find a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the counter. A note was attached saying that since she was away and wouldn't be able to enjoy them, I was welcome to bring them home. Not one to ever have fresh flowers in the house this was a nice treat so I gladly took them with me.

To say I know nothing about flowers (or gardening in general) would be an understatement. I recognized yellow roses in the arrangement but had no idea what the rest of the bouquet contained. Thankfully I had recently written a Purrfect 10 article on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's most reported pet toxins which included a bit of research on flowers and plants that are poisonous to cats, and I started having this nagging feeling that some of the flowers I didn't know might be lilies. A quick google search confirmed my fears, and within seconds the entire bouquet was out the door and in a garbage bag.

I soaped down every surface they touched, mopped the kitchen floor and vacuumed the hallway rug I had carried them across. Then I scrubbed out the sink and emptied the vacuum bag for good measure. I even changed clothes just in case I had gotten any pollen on me! Possibly overly paranoid, but I wasn't taking any chances. Thankfully Mudpie napped through the entire ordeal. If anything had happened to her because of my own ignorance I never would have been able to forgive myself.

Yes, Lilies Kill Cats

With Easter right around the corner the dangers of lilies can't be overstated. The petals, the leaves, the stem, even the pollen - all parts of the lily plant are poisonous to your cat. The smallest amount, even ingesting a bit of pollen while grooming her fur or drinking water from the vase, can result in severe, acute kidney failure. If left untreated, they will die.

Sources of Poisoning
  • The most dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are true lilies of the Lilium or Hemerocallis species: the tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Easter, Japanese Show, rubrum, stargazer, red, Western, and wood lilies. 
  • The lily of the valley damages the heart, causing irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure, which can progress to seizures or coma. 
  • Other types of lilies, such as Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies, contain insoluble oxalate crystals that are extremely irritating to the mouth and digestive tract, causing drooling, pawing and foaming at the mouth, and vomiting, but they do not affect the kidneys or heart.

Symptoms of lily poisoning usually appear within a few hours of exposure and include:
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Dehydration
Within 72 hours acute kidney failure occurs and death is possible in as few as 4 days following ingestion.

What to Do
  • If you suspect your cat has come into contact with lilies, seek veterinary care immediately. Treatment within the first 18 hours is key to saving the cat's life.
  • Whenever possible, bring a sample of the lily with you to the vet's office or take a picture of it with your cell phone and let the vet staff know how much your cat ingested.  This will help your vet take the right course of action much more quickly.

  • Gastric decontamination (induce vomiting, administering activated charcoal to neutralize the toxin)
  • IV fluid therapy is used to to maintain urine production in order to remove toxins and to treat dehydration.
  • If kidney failure has already begun, dialysis is necessary to remove toxins from the blood.
There is no antidote for lily poisoning. Treatment consists of removing the remaining plant material and preventing further absorption. Prompt medical attention is vital, and even with veterinary intervention survival is not guaranteed.

Avoid Lilies At All Costs
  • Never, ever, ever allow any type of lily into your home if you have a cat. 
  • Don't plant them in your garden where outdoor cats may be exposed to them, and encourage your neighbors to do the same. 
  • Always request that they be removed from florist's bouquets, whether you're purchasing an arrangement for yourself or a fellow pet owner.

Lilies may be beautiful, but they aren't worth risking a cat's life.


  1. It's so important to remind humans of the dangers of lilies. My human chuckled a little at all the precautions you took after unknowingly bringing lilies into your house... it was a chuckle of recognition because she would have done EXACTLY the same thing! She is super paranoid about bringing anything into the house that might harm us. She loves lilies, but only in photos.

  2. When I had Kitty, my ex-husband gave me lilies every couple weeks. I begged him to stop - not the least of it because they screwed with my allergies - and because any floral arrangement in the house had to be inspected by Kitty. It's a very serious danger and it breaks my heart to think of all the cats that suffer because their people don't know better. On the day I moved in, I got an azalea as a housewarming present. With all the hubbub, I didn't think about having Bear - until the next morning when I woke up to find a pile of dirt and the pot on the floor. Not a single trace of the plant. Talk about lucky! I let that be a lesson I'll never forget ... no matter how busy ... Bear's safety first!

  3. We stick to plants dat are safe for us around here.

  4. Thanks for posting this!
    It is so important that people know the dangers many flowers pose to cats.
    Purrs Georgia,Julie and JJ

  5. This is a great reminder. I had this thought the other day: Florists should create certified "pet safe" arrangements. Maybe some of them already do, but the very few times I've sent flowers to anyone, I haven't seen this as an option.

  6. A great reminder. It still amazes us how many people don't know how toxic lilies are to cats.

  7. Many of the flower arrangements we got when Daddy went to Heaven had lilies in them. Mom pulled them all out

    The Florida Furkids

  8. Great article, Mudpie. We don't have lillies in our garden...phew :D Pawkisses for a Happy Day :) <3

  9. This must be one of those ways in which beauty is pain. As pretty as they are, I don't even like to touch lilies for fear that I'll transfer their poison to my furbabies. Thank you for this wonderfully informative post!

  10. Dear Melissa and Mudpie - What a close call. Thank you for the information. Dad plants lilys outside -- but after reading this -- they're outta here!
    Purrs with gratitude. Herman and the Wonderpurr Gang

  11. Thank goodness, that The O Cats don't care for lilies, because they grow wild in the gardens here. None will cross the threshold into the house!

  12. important reminder for sure......we just did a post about Lilies (the one we repeat every year) last week.......hopefully people will get the idea catchatwithcarenandcody

  13. Excellent post! I shared on FB and Twitter.

  14. Great info for pet parents to know!

  15. I hope this gets out to more than we cat bloggers. It's a very important message.