Spring has sprung, Easter is just around the corner, and soon it will be Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, these joyful holidays are two of the most dangerous days for cats. Why? The answer is simple: lily poisoning. Exposure to common plants such as Easter lilies, tiger lilies and stargazer lilies results in thousands of feline poisonings and deaths every year. However, less than 30% of the 36-million USA cat owners are aware that ingestion of any part of a lily can be fatal for cats! Many different kinds of plants are found or sold with “lily” as part of their name. A few grow wild in ditches and wooded areas, some are sold as bulbs in garden shops, and many are used in floral arrangements. If you are a cat owner, or have friends and family with cats, it’s critical to know which lilies are toxic to those feline family members.
True Lilies and Day-Lilies
Plants in the “true lily” and day-lily families such as Easter lilies, stargazer lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies and Oriental lilies are highly toxic to cats. These beautiful and affordable flowers are often found in cut-flower bouquets or potted for the Easter holiday. If you have cats at home, it’s critical that you do not bring these flowers inside. Ingestion of just one petal, leaf, or even the pollen can cause complete kidney failure in less than three days. The specific toxin has not yet been identified, but if you even suspect your cat has eaten any part of a dangerous lily, this is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY requiring IMMEDIATE veterinary care. Early decontamination, aggressive IV fluid therapy, kidney function tests, and supportive care may improve your cat’s prognosis. Due to the high risk of fatality, we recommend that these flowers NEVER be brought into homes with cats.
Other Toxic Lilies
Other dangerous “lily” plants include the Lily of the Valley and Gloriosa or Flame Lily: Lily of the Valley may cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias and death when eaten by cats OR dogs. The roots or tubers of the Gloriosa lily may cause serious multi-system organ failure if chewed on by cats or dogs. If you think your pet has eaten any part of a toxic lily, contact us immediately at 402-291-1255; if our office is closed, you should call the VCA Midwest Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center (VCA-MVREC) in Omaha at (402) 614-9000.
What Flowers Are Safe Around Cats?
You can still give beautiful bouquets for Easter, Mother’s Day, and other holidays – just be sure to choose safe alternatives to those lovely but lethal lilies! When buying flowers or ordering them for delivery, it’s wise to specifically instruct florists to not include any flowers in the Lilium species such as stargazer, Asiatic, Oriental, or tiger lilies. Giving florists the scientific name of the flower species can also help avoid confusion. Safer cut-flower choices include baby’s breath, carnations, Gerbera daisies, hyacinths, iris, Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria species,) roses, tulips, and zinnias. Some of these plants may cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested, but are not considered life-threatening.
For more information about kitties and lilies, check out the graphic above, and take a look at the Pet Poison Helpline’s short video on lily poisoning. Still have questions? Please call us before you buy those bouquets, we’re happy to help! You can help by spreading the word, and help us save more feline lives!