Sadly, not enough cat owners know that lilies are extremely dangerous and toxic to cats and are fatal when ingested. All parts of the lily are poisonous and even a tiny amount of lily ingestion, for example eating one leaf or licking off a speck of lily pollen, can result in death to cats.
Lilies that are dangerous include:
- Japanese Show
- Any other members of the genus Lilum, otherwise known as the ‘true lilies’
- Certain types of Daylily (Hemerocallis sp.)
Other lilies such as Calla, Peace and Peruvian lilies are mildly toxic BUT to be on the absolute safe side, regard all lilies and any plant with `lily’ in it (i.e. Lily of the Valley) as a danger and toxic to your cat.
Cats will either eat parts of the lily or the pollen from the long stamens can easily get onto the cat’s fur, whiskers, face, tail or paws and when the cat licks the pollen off its fur, face or paws, the poisonous pollen is ingested. The toxicity of lilies cause severe kidney failure and cats die because they have eaten or come into contact with lilies, either in the home or in the garden.
Symptoms of lily poisoning in cats
Signs of poisoning often develop within 6-12 hours of exposure. Early signs include vomiting, not eating, dehydration and lethargy. As acute kidney failure develops, signs are not urinating or over-urinating, not drinking or excessive thirst and an inflamed pancreas. Other symptoms, although not common are disorientation, walking unsteadily, seizures and tremors.
What to do – Take your cat immediately to the vet if poisoned by lilies
The primary intoxication is on the kidneys. If left, the kidneys will become worse as kidney damage progresses and without immediate treatment kidney failure will occur within 36-72 hours or before.
If you suspect your cat has eaten or been poisoned by a lily, then you MUST take it to the vet immediately with no delay. DO NOT TREAT YOUR CAT AT HOME as this will not work. Full emergency treatment must be given in a veterinary medical environment. Decontamination such as inducing vomiting and medication to bind the poison in the stomach and gut and also aggressive intravenous fluid therapy as well as full monitoring and assessment must be given by a qualified vet and immediately.
If emergency treatment has begun within 6 hours of ingestion, there is a strong chance that your cat will recover. However, the longer you leave it and if over 18 hours since ingestion your cat’s chances reduce drastically, even with emergency treatment, as with more time the kidneys become badly affected and worsen.
How to prevent poisoning
Do not have lilies anywhere near your home or in the garden and ask your neighbours to not have lilies in their gardens. Particularly in summer when lilies bloom outdoors, keep an eye on your cat closely and also look for any signs on all parts of your cat of lily pollen which is heavy and noticeable and often stains when dry or wet.
What you can do to spread the word
It’s really important for all cat owners to spread the word to each other about how poisonous and fatal lilies are to cats, so tell all your friends, family and neighbours who have cats and pass the word on. Unfortunately, it is still not know about widely just how poisonous lilies are and vets see many cases of lily poisoning and sadly deaths.