The beginning of Spring just arrived and with it comes a significant hazard for our feline friends: Lilies. While there are plenty of plants which are toxic to cats, we often find that many people are unaware lilies are among them. Beyond that, they don’t just cause simple GI upset like some plants might. Lilies can be deadly to cats.
It is important to know that, for the purposes of this, we are discussing specifically the members of the Lilium family. There are many plants which are called lily without falling into that classification. Some of these, such as the peace lily or calla lily, are still toxic but usually with less severe effects often limited to drooling & GI upset. Others, such as the canna lily or plantain lily (hosta), are non-toxic.
Pictured below: Lilium (true lily), Peace lily, Calla lily, Canna lily & Plantain lily.
Ingestion of true lilies can cause renal failure in a cat and even result in death; as little as a few grains of pollen have been seen to cause this effect. For many plants, we know the toxic compounds that cause whatever the resulting symptoms are. With lilies, however, the specific substance is unknown. Additionally, many plants only produce toxins in specific parts of the plant; true lilies produce their toxic principle in all parts, from the roots and bulbs to the petals and leaves. This is true even in minuscule amounts.
Should your cat get into true lilies, it is important that you contact your veterinarian or local emergency veterinary hospital and get your pet treated immediately. Lily ingestion is absolutely an emergency and should be treated as such; do not wait until the next morning. If aggressive IV fluids are administered within a few hours of ingestion, the kidneys can sometimes be spared. The combination of an extremely low toxic “dose” and the severity of the resultant toxicity mean that we always advise not having lilies in any household where there are cats, including those which are less or non-toxic.
That’s the best way to keep your feline friends safe.