Lilies are found in various places, but the most common is in floral arrangements, especially around Easter and Mother’s Day. If you have cats and you love lilies, be careful, because they are extremely poisonous to cats. The entire plant is toxic to cats, thus just one bite can make your cat very sick, and if they are not treated within a reasonable amount of time, death may occur. Unfortunately, there is no antidote for lily toxicity, so it is important to know as much as possible about this plant and the effects you may see if your cat is exposed to it.
If you think your cat has ingested a lily plant, this is a life-threatening emergency. Seek veterinary care immediately and have your veterinarian contact an animal poison control center.
What Is Lily Toxicity?
We don't know what makes the lily toxic, but we do know that all parts of the lily plant are harmful to cats. The most dangerous and potentially fatal lilies for cats are found in the genus Lilium and Hemerocallis. If you have a cat, we recommend keeping these plants out of your home:
- Asiatic lily
- Day lily
- Easter lily
- Peace lily
- Japanese Show lily
- Rubrum lily
- Stargazer lily
- Tiger lily
- Wood lily
Although not a member of the genus Lilium or Hemerocallis, Lily of the Valley is extremely toxic to cats and should also be kept out of the home and garden.
Signs of Lily Toxicity
- Loss of Appetite
- Renal Failure
The first signs of lily toxicity in a cat may be seen as early as two hours. In the beginning, you may notice lethargy (low energy level), a loss of appetite, and vomiting. As the condition progresses, tremors and seizures may occur. Prolonged exposure to this toxin will result in dehydration, renal failure, and death if left untreated. Lily of the Valley is a little different in that it does not cause renal failure but may cause heart failure.
If you suspect your cat has ingested any part of a lily plant, even if there may have been a possible exposure to the pollen, seek veterinary attention immediately. If your veterinarian is closed, contact the nearest emergency hospital. It will be helpful if you know which lily they were exposed to and the amount they consumed. You may be asked to contact animal poison control, so have their information handy. Because time is crucial, your veterinarian will start treatment to begin to address the damage. They will then run a series of tests to determine how severe your cat's condition is. Prompt veterinary care is essential to a more favorable outcome.
The earlier you bring your cat in for treatment, the best chance they have for survival. In the early stages, your veterinarian may perform a procedure known as decontamination. Your cat will be given a thick oral liquid that will bind to the toxins and move them out of the body through the gastrointestinal tract. Aggressive fluid therapy initiated within 24 hours of ingestion may prevent anuric renal failure, where the kidneys do not produce urine. In more severe cases, dialysis is the only effective treatment. Be prepared for your cat to be hospitalized for several days.
How to Prevent Lily Toxicity
The best way to keep your feline friend safe is to keep these plants out of your home and yard. But if you find that your cat has already helped itself to the lily in your flower arrangement, seek veterinary attention immediately. Just remember, the sooner the problem is identified and treatment is initiated, the better your cat's chance of survival.
When buying flowers or ordering them for delivery, remember to leave out the lilies. It's advisable to specifically instruct florists not to include any lilies in the Lilium species such as Stargaze, Asiatic, Oriental, or Tiger lilies. Giving florists the scientific name of the flower species can help avoid confusion.
If you want to find a safer option to lilies, here are a few that will not cause harm to your cat and will look beautiful in a floral arrangement.
- Blue Daisy
- Persian Violet
- Snap Dragon
- Gerber Daisy
- Star Jasmine
- "Lilies" "Pet Poison Control". Pet Poison Control, https://www.petpoisoncontrol.com/portfolio/lilies/.
- "How To Spot Which Lilies Are Dangerous To Cats & Plan Treatment". ASPCA Professional, https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/how-spot-which-lilies-are-dangerous-cats-plan-treatment.
- Brooks, Wendy. "Safe And Toxic Garden Plant Images - Veterinary Partner - VIN". Veterinarypartner.Vin.Com, 2018, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=8605646.
Lovely Lilies and Curious Cats: A Dangerous Combination. U.S. Food And Drug Administration, 2020
Lilies Is Toxic To Cats. Pet Poison Helpline, 2020
Fitzgerald, Kevin T. Lily Toxicity In The Cat. Topics In Companion Animal Medicine, vol 25, no. 4, 2010, pp. 213-217. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1053/j.tcam.2010.09.006