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Are Lilies Toxic to Cats? What You Need to Know

Renowned for their large trumpet-like dazzling flowers and a robust scent, lilies are elegant and strikingly beautiful – a delightful addition to a household, especially during easter celebrations. However, these attractive perennial flowers are a ‘NO’ for cat-friendly households and gardens. Unbeknown to most cat parents, lilies are toxic to cats.

Cats’ heightened curiosity and explorative nature make them especially vulnerable to toxicity related to lilies. A little bite of any part of the plant or even drinking water from a vase with cut lilies can cause severe symptoms, kidney failure, or worse, death.

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Why Are Lilies Toxic to Cats?

Various types of lilies are harmful to kitties, with the most lethal being true lilies and Hemerocallis. They include Asiatic lily, Daylily, Easter lily, Japanese Show Lily, Oriental lily, Tiger lily, Wood lily, or Stargazer lily.

Every part of these plants is dangerous: the stem, flowers, leaves, and even pollen. Licking, biting, or even brushing by the bloom can cause acute kidney failure to your kitty or death within three days.

However, not all plants with “lily” in their name are as deadly as the ones above. For instance, “less harmful lilies” such as Calla, Peace, and Peruvian lilies are not as potentially harmful but contain calcium oxalates’ insoluble crystals.

Therefore, when a cat chews on them, they release the insoluble crystals, which irritates the mouth and cause pain on the tongue and esophagus. The signs usually resolve on their own after some time. Other “highly toxic lilies,” such as lily-of-the-valley and Gloriosa or flame lily, are as harmful although they don’t cause kidney failure.

cat smelling with tail
Photo credit: succo, Pixabay

For instance, lily-of-the-valley contains toxins that can make a cat’s heart beat abnormally. On the other hand, Gloriosa’s roots can contain enough poison to cause severe multi-system organ failure.

One of the most common ways that cats ingest lilies is when they clean fallen pollen from their coats. Unfortunately, the toxin substance and the toxic dose that can potentially harm your fur baby are still unknown. But still, mouthing or brushing through even the smallest of these bountiful flowers can cause agony to your feline friend.

Signs of Lily Poisoning in Cats

Although cats are loners and can hide their pain from you, there are signs and symptoms of lily toxicity you can pick up. These first symptoms usually occur from 0 to 12 hours after ingestion.

After that, signs of kidney injury such as excessive peeing and dehydration show from about 12hrs-24hrs after ingestion. At this time, your kitty may drink excess water than usual. Kidney failure later occurs within 24hrs-72hrs, after which things go downhill fast, leading to death if the cat goes untreated.

The signs of lily toxicity in cats therefore include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy/Depression
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Decreased Activity Level
  • Drooling
  • Abnormal heart-rate
  • Breathing difficulties due to swelling of the airway
  • Bad breath
  • Dehydration
  • Increased Urination, followed by no urination after one or two days
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Image: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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Lily Toxicity in Cats: Diagnosis & Treatment

Cat Lily Poisoning Diagnosis

Unfortunately, your kitty can have irreversible renal failure if you treat it later than 18 hours after ingestion.  But then, you can save your kitty’s quality of life if you seek early veterinary treatment. The vet can diagnose the possibility of acute kidney failure by feeling large and painful kidneys, conduct blood tests, urine tests, ultrasound exams, or a needle biopsy of the kidneys.

Although the uncertainties around the toxic dose and the specific toxin make it hard for vets to conduct a specific test that identifies lily intoxication, some laboratory results can make the diagnosis accurate – especially if supported by evidence of lily contact.

Cat Lily Poisoning Treatment

During early treatment, your vet may try to induce vomiting. The vet will then give it activated charcoal orally to absorb any remaining toxic remnants in your cat’s gastrointestinal tract.

Or, the vet can perform a procedure known as decontamination by giving your kitty a thick liquid that’ll mix with the toxins and flush them out of the body through its digestive system. Vets can only perform this procedure intravenously (IV) and if your kitty has not yet stopped producing urine for one or two days.

But once the kidneys develop anuria, the vet will have to perform the only potential treatment- peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis-on the cat. The good thing is, there are no long-term consequences if your kitty’s treatment is successful.

Therefore, take your kitty to a vet upon suspecting that it has ingested any part of the flower, pollen, or drank water from the flower vase. You can call your vet or the pet poison control center within your location.

The type of lily ingested could prompt emergency medical attention. It is also essential to bring the lily with you to the vet or take a picture of the plant. By doing so, your vet will be able to determine if the plant is very poisonous or mildly toxic.

Sick cat medicines
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

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Summary: Are Lilies Poisonous to Cats

No doubt, lilies provide aesthetic interests to homes, and their delightful scents purify the air. But since they are dangerous for cats, keep them in vases, high up where cats can’t reach, if you should have them.

You can also reduce their potential risk by cutting out the stamen to reduce pollen drop and educate your household members about the dangers of lilies to felines. Better yet, you could ask a florist to create a “cat-safe” floral arrangement in your garden. However, if you love your kitty as a family, it would be best if you don’t have these flowers in your home at all.

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels