Lilies and Cats Don’t Mix!


“No lilies for kitties!” – This is a campaign slogan from the Pet Poison Helpline – and it’s very fitting for a blog topic this week since it is National Poison Prevention Week.

All pet owners should realize that there are many plants that are toxic to pets. The level of toxicity can vary depending on the species of animal, the type of plant, the part(s) of the plant ingested, and the amount ingested. Whenever you are considering a plant purchase, be sure to research whether the plant can be harmful to your pet. If it is, perhaps you can consider a different plant choice. If you do have plants that can be toxic to pets in the house, they should be placed in rooms and locations where pets cannot access. This concept can also extend to outdoor plants if you have pets that spend time outdoors. Are you considering giving a plant to someone who owns pets? Then the same rules of thumb apply. Try and find non-toxic options instead! With the spring season approaching and flowers becoming plentiful, you should have lots of options to choose from.

This week, we decided to focus on cats and lilies as an example of pets and toxic plants. All lilies are not the same, so it is important to understand the different types and lily species to understand the level of danger and anticipate what symptoms they might cause.

Some lilies such as Peace Lilies, Peruvian Lilies, and Calla Lilies tend to cause minor symptoms. They contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause local irritation in the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus if the plant is eaten. If a cat ingests portions of these plants, you may see drooling or pawing at the mouth because of the local irritation. Vomiting can also be seen.

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is a different type of lily that can cause heart arrhythmias if ingested. The rhythm disturbance can be life threatening. The Gloriosa (Glory) Lily is another dangerous lily that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, organ failure, seizures, and death. If you know your pet has consumed this lily bring him or her to the clinic right away.

True lilies of the Lilium or Hemerocallis species are yet another category of dangerous lilies. They hold the potential to cause acute kidney failure, as well as death, in cats that ingest the plant parts.  Even the plant pollen can cause kidney failure! True lilies include things such as Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, Japanese Show, Rubrum, Stargazer, Red, Western, and Wood Lilies. Even very small ingestions (a couple of petals or leaves) can cause severe kidney failure. If your cat ever ingests any of these, bring him or her to the clinic right away. If the ingestion is caught early, we can work to decontaminate the system by inducing vomiting and giving a substance that can help bind toxins (activated charcoal). We will also treat with intravenous fluids to help flush the system and support the kidneys, while also treating any symptoms that may arise (such as vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, inappetance, etc.).

As you can see, all lilies are not the same. So be sure to know what type you have, and keep your pets from even having access to any toxic plants. You can learn more about lilies, as well as other toxic plants, from the following links:

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS