Lillies Kill Cats
It may not come as much of a shock to know that certain plants and flowers can be toxic to pets. In fact, pet owners are so aware of certain toxicities that it’s not uncommon come December for emergency pet hospitals to start receiving calls from pet owners worried because their cat was seen nibbling on the leaf of a poinsettia plant. This is great (it’s always a good thing for pet owners to be educated and informed), but...
...the truth is that there are other plants and flowers that are more common and more dangerous to pets than poinsettias. One such flower is the lily.
It only takes a nibble or a lick:
- Lilies are one of the most dangerous flowers to have around cats. It takes only a nibble or lick to send a cat into acute kidney failure, which can be fatal.
- If you live with cats, never have lilies in the home. When sending flower bouquets to friends or family members with cats, specifically request no lilies.
"True lilies" are those in the Lilium genus (e.g., Stargazer lily, Tiger lily, Easter lily, Japanese show lily, Asiatic lily, Rubrum lily, and others) as well as the Daylilies of the Hemerocallis genus They are beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers that are so common, you’ll find them everywhere from everyday table centerpieces to wedding bouquets.
Unfortunately, they are one of the most dangerous flowers to have around cats. It takes only a nibble on one leaf or stem, or the ingestion of a small amount of lily pollen (easy to do when a cat grooms itself) to send a cat into acute kidney failure and you rushing to the emergency vet.
Acute kidney (renal) failure is always debilitating to your pet and expensive for you. The outlook for cats with acute kidney failure resulting from eating lilies can be good, so long as early and aggressive treatment is pursued. But if too much time passes before ingestion is recognized and appropriate treatment is started, the outlook becomes much worse and death from the disease or from euthanasia is more likely. The sad truth is that without treatment, acute kidney failure is going to be fatal.
Treatment for lily-induced acute kidney failure involves aggressive IV fluids, injectable medications, nutritional support, and very close monitoring. If such treatment is proving unsuccessful, advanced options, such as peritoneal dialysis, continuous renal replacement therapy, or renal dialysis are considered. These treatments are not cheap and are also not available at all veterinary clinics. In fact, because treatment for acute kidney failure resulting from lily toxicity is so intense, it is best to have your cat treated at a specialty veterinary emergency hospital right from the get-go.
Hospitalization and treatment costs for this condition will depend on the severity of the case and the cat’s response to therapy. It can safely be assumed, though, that a hospital bill will likely start at $2,000, and could increase to $4,000 or more. This is not a condition that can be conservatively treated – delay in starting the appropriate treatment both worsens the cat’s prognosis and increases treatment costs.
As you are hopefully appreciating, preventing your cat’s exposure to lilies is truly of the utmost importance, and there are several easy ways you can help prevent this toxicity.
- If you live with cats, never have lilies in the home. Regardless of how out of reach you think they may be, it’s just not worth the risk. Cats jump, dead leaves fall, vases spill, and pollen travels on breezes – any of these scenarios can kill your cat.
- Keep your cats indoors. Many people have lilies in their garden. If your cat is outdoors, unless they are in a secure outdoor enclosure (such as the Kittywalk System), there is no way to ensure that they will not eat or rub up against those lilies.
- When sending flower bouquets to friends or family members with cats, specifically request no lilies. To make sure they listen to your request, tell them that the recipient is deathly allergic to the flowers. Some florists may not be aware of the dangers of lilies to cats, and they don’t need to know that the ‘recipient’ you are referring to is your friend’s cat.
- Inform your friends and family members of the dangers of lilies to cats. The more people that know about the risk, the more cats we can save from lily toxicity and possible death. Please share our Lilies Kill Cats article and infographic. And see here for a more extensive list of poisonous plants and flowers – and some non-toxic alternatives.