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Are lilies toxic to cats? The short answer is yes: lilies and cats don’t mix. Every part of the plant is toxic to cats.
Lilies — sometimes called “true lilies” or “daylilies” — can be found in gardens, in our home’s flower arrangements, and all over the world. While they are lovely to look at, lilies contain a chemical that can cause kidney failure in cats when ingested. Here’s a quick rundown on which lilies are dangerous and how you can keep your cat safe.
There are dozens of lily plants out there. Luckily, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists the common lilies that are toxic to cats:¹
As previously mentioned, lilies contain a chemical that causes kidney damage and renal failure when ingested.² Sadly, it doesn’t take much to harm your cat. Small amounts of pollen on their fur getting into their mouth while grooming could be enough to cause concern. This sort of poisoning comes on fast, with mild symptoms showing within an hour and severe symptoms within 18 hours.²
Every single part of the plant is toxic to your kitty: its stem, leaves, flowers, pollen, and even the water it sits in.² If your cat ingests the lily’s toxins, your cat could develop fatal kidney failure within 3 days.²
Certain types of lilies, like the lily-of-the-valley, have toxins that affect the heart while other types could cause vomiting, diarrhea, and overall weakness.² It may be best to keep your cat away from all lilies since it would put them at risk toward organ damage and even death.
There are a wide set of symptoms when a cat has been affected by lilies, with many that may be mistaken as cat allergies or food sensitivity. These symptoms progress over a matter of hours.
Within an hour to 12 hours of lily poisoning, you may notice decreased activity, vomiting, drooling, and loss of appetite. Increased urination and dehydration usually sets in within a day. Cats may suffer from kidney failure within 72 hours after ingestion. This could lead to death if left untreated.
Early veterinary intervention is highly recommended. Any delay could result in irreversible kidney failure. It can be smart to call your veterinarian or pet poison center as soon as you notice symptoms or discover your cat has ingested lilies.
If you can bring the plant or a photo of it to your appointment, your vet can determine the degree of toxicity and better prescribe treatment.
Treatment of lily poisoning varies depending on the amount of the lily that was ingested, the type of lily, and other factors, but many cats recover with minimal therapy when treated early.³ Your vet may induce vomiting if your cat hasn’t done so already, then administer activated charcoal to soak up the excess toxins.³
In more severe cases, your vet might choose to give your pet intravenous (IV) fluids to support kidney function.³ Be prepared for your cat to be kept overnight if this is the case, so their urine output is monitored or if dialysis is necessary.³
Make sure your cat can’t access these plants if you have them in your garden or around your house. Consider removing them altogether if you’re unable to invest in fencing or other deterrents.
Cat parents shouldn’t bring lilies into their homes, but people often receive lilies as gifts. You can either politely turn the gift away or place the plant somewhere your cat can’t reach it. If those aren’t options, you could invest in motion-sensing compressed air canisters that can scare your cat off when they get too close. If none of that works, re-gift the lily plant to another houseplant lover.
Nothing can scare a pet parent more than an unexpected accident. Lilies are popular, beautiful plants that present a major danger to your curious cat. Be diligent to keep these plants away from your kitty to avoid risking major illness or death.
To make things worse, treatment for accidental lily ingestion can be expensive. Investing in a MetLife cat insurance policy can help cover unexpected vet visits and help provide peace of mind. Get started today with a free quote from MetLife Pet Insurance, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award in the 2022 Pet Independent Innovation Awards Program.
¹ “Which Lilies Are Toxic to Pets?,” Animal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
² “Lovely Lilies and Curious Cats: A Dangerous Combination,” Federal Drug Administration
³ “Lily Toxicity in Cats,” The University of California Davis College of Veterinary Medicine
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