Why Are Lilies Toxic To Cats?

Aimee Labbate
  • Aimee Labbate

  • RCVS: 700039

 

Despite their beautiful appearance, lilies are highly toxic to cats. All parts of the plant are toxic, including the flower, pollen and leaves. Cats sometimes like to chew at the leaves or can ingest pollen from their fur if they have brushed past a lily, both can cause kidney failure and veterinary attention must be sought ASAP.

Why are lilies toxic to cats?

All parts of the lily plant are toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure within 36-72 hours.  Most species of lily are poisonous, such as Easter, Asiatic, Stargazer, Rubrum, Day, Japanese Show and Tiger lilies. Certain species including Peace and Peruvian lilies are not ‘true’ lilies, and do not cause kidney damage, although they may irritate the mouth and cause salivation and facial swelling if eaten.

One of the most common ways for a cat to be exposed to lilies is if they brush against it getting pollen on their fur, or if they walk through pollen that has dropped onto a surface. Through grooming the cat then ingests the pollen and exposure occurs. Cutting out the stamen can reduce the risk of this exposure, although the cat is still in danger if they decide to chew at the leaves or petals. It is therefore safer to not have them in the house at all if you have cats.

What are the symptoms of lily poisoning in cats?

Symptoms usually start within a few hours of ingestion, but kidney failure can take a few days to develop. If you are concerned that you cat may have eaten or had exposure to lilies then please contact your vet ASAP rather than waiting for symptoms to develop. These may include:

  • Vomiting (may contain a piece of lily)
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drinking and urinating more
  • Drooling and smelling breath
  • Twitching and seizures
  • Collapse and death

What is the treatment for lily toxicity in cats?

In order to increase the chances of treatment being successful, early recognition of possible ingestion is key to allow prompt veterinary management of the ensuing kidney failure.

Treatment usually involves:

  • Emptying the stomach if possible
  • Decontaminating the fur and skin of pollen
  • Activated charcoal to absorb any toxin remaining in the gastrointestinal tract
  • An intravenous drip to help kidney function
  • Supportive medication and nursing care

Will my cat recover from lily toxicity?

Prompt treatment is the key to successful. Unfortunately cases can often go unnoticed until the symptoms of kidney failure develop, in which case the outlook is poor. For cats that do recover, they can be left with some kidney damage that may need to be managed.

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Lilies: beautiful but deadly for your cat

Despite their beautiful appearance, lilies are highly toxic to cats. All parts of the plant are toxic, including the flower, pollen and leaves. Cats sometimes like to chew at the leaves or can ingest pollen from their fur if they have brushed past a lily, both can cause kidney failure and veterinary attention must be sought ASAP. Symptoms include vomiting, increased thirst and urination and lethargy.

Treatment is most likely to be successful if started early before kidney failure has had chance to develop. Unfortunately, cases can often go unnoticed until the symptoms of kidney failure develop, in which case the outlook is poor.

If you are concerned that you cat may have eaten or had exposure to lilies then please contact your vet ASAP rather than waiting for symptoms to develop.


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