Lilies and Kitties Don’t Mix!
As warm weather approaches for many of us, it’s a good time for a reminder that LILIES are toxic to cats. Lily plants belonging to the genus Lilium are particularly dangerous: Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum), Tiger lily (L. tigrinum), Asiatic lily hybrids, and the Stargazer lily (an Oriental hybrid). Day lilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are also implicated in severe poisoning. They are all popular as indoor potted plants and flower arrangements, and they are also planted outdoors in gardens.
Signs of Poisoning
Lilium species produce a chemical found throughout the entire plant, and this chemical is toxic to cats in very low concentrations. If a cat eats leaves or flowers–even tiny bites–licks pollen during grooming, or drinks water from cut flowers, she may develop acute kidney failure! Early signs that your kitty may have been poisoned by a lily include:
- Loss of appetite
Kidney Failure can Occur 36 – 72 hrs After Poisoning and Results In:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination to start, followed by little to no urine
The mortality rate from Easter lily poisoning is 50–100%, depending on how early a cat is treated. If treatment does not begin before onset of kidney failure, risk of death is much higher. Treatment involves aggressive IV fluid therapy; however subcutaneous fluids are not effective.
Other Toxic Plants in the Lily Family
Allium species, such as onion and garlic, and Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) are also quite toxic to cats. These are also in the lily family, but different genera.
The alliums can produce vomiting, panting, and increased heart rate after ingestion. The breakdown of red blood cells results in anemia and blood in the urine.
Lily of the Valley ingestion produces vomiting, irregular heart beat, low blood pressure, coma, and seizures.
Plants with Lower Toxicity
Some closely related plants (taxonomically speaking) are not as severely toxic, though they can make kitty feel quite sick. The Calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and Peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.), as well as other Arum lilies, may cause burning and irritation of mouth, drooling, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting.
Plantain Lily (Hosta plantaginea) and aloe (Aloe vera) may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.
Daffodils (Narcissus spp.) cause vomiting and diarrhea, and in large quantities can result in convulsions, low blood pressure, and cardiac arrhythmias. Amaryllis (Amaryllis spp.), tulips (Tulipa spp.), and irises (Iris spp.) also cause vomiting and diarrhea, as well as drooling. In these cases, the bulbs or rhizomes are the most toxic parts of the plants.
Some Lilies Are Not Poisonous
Finally, some members of the lily family ARE NOT poisonous to cats! These include wildflowers such as the Mariposa and Globe lilies, Snake lilies, and Trout lilies (i.e. the genera Calochortus, Dichelostemma, and Erythronium). As a matter of fact, in the U.S., Native Americans and early European settlers historically roasted and boiled the bulbs of Mariposa and Snake lilies, earning these plants the nickname “Indian potatoes.”
- Calochortus bruneaunis
- Calochortus albus
- Dichelostemma volubile
- Calochortus monophyllus
- Calochortus amabilis
- Yellow Dogtooth Violet
- Sego lily
What To Do if Your Cat has been Poisoned
If you suspect that your cat has eaten a poisonous plant, call your veterinarian ASAP. If you are in the U.S., you can also contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 (a $65.00 consultation fee may apply).
For more information, the ASPCA has a thorough list of plants both toxic and non-toxic to cats: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/cats-plant-list