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Cats and Lilies: A Toxic Combination

Stargazer lily ( Lilium orientalis )

Stargazer lily (Lilium orientalis)

There are many different types of plants which we call ‘lilies.’  The most toxic lilies belong to the lilium genus (Easter Lilies, Stargazer Lilies, Tiger Lilies, Japanese Lilies, Asiatic Lilies, etc) and hemerocallis genus (Daylilies).  These lilies contain an unknown toxin that causes kidney failure and death in cats, even with very minimal ingestion.  Anecdotally it is thought that exposure to just the pollen of lilies or the water left over in a vase of lilies may be deadly. Because of this extreme risk, these flowers and plants should not be kept in any household with cats.   

Tiger lily -  Lilium lancifolium

Tiger lily - Lilium lancifolium

These flowers are commonly found in floral bouquets, especially Stargazer lilies and Easter lilies.  If you are thinking of ordering flowers for yourself or a friend who has cats, make sure you do not send a potentially toxic bouquet!

If you suspect your cat may have been exposed to a lily, you should contact your veterinarian immediately; your cat will need to be seen ASAP!

What will my veterinarian do?

Easter lily ( Lilium longiflorum )

Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum)

Immediate treatment when you arrive at your vet usually includes inducing vomiting to remove as much of the lily from the stomach as possible.  Activated charcoal may also be used to bind up the lily in the intestines and prevent it from being absorbed into the body.

Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy is performed for up to 72 hours to help prevent kidney failure.

Daylily -  Hemerocallis spp .

Daylily - Hemerocallis spp.

Your veterinarian may also recommend additional medications or treatments depending on what symptoms your animal is showing.  

Fortunately, the prognosis is good for cats who receive prompt veterinary attention!  

What about other lily plants?

Other common plants called ‘lilies’ include Peace lilies, Calla lilies, and Lily of the Valley.  

Calla lily -  Zantedeschia aethiopica

Calla lily - Zantedeschia aethiopica

Peace lilies and Calla lilies contain calcium oxalate crystals which are irritating to the mouth, and will cause a cat to drool and possibly vomit.  

Peace Lily -  Spathiphyllum

Peace Lily - Spathiphyllum

Lily of the Valley -  Convallaria majalis

Lily of the Valley - Convallaria majalis

Lily of the Valley contains cardiac glycosides and can cause a potentially fatal heart stoppage.  Be sure to contact your veterinarian ASAP if you think your cat has had contact with any of these plants!

Of course, lilies are not the only potentially toxic plant in our homes.  Check out the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants to help ensure your pets are safe:

The ASPCA also provides a pet poison control hotline to call if you have concerns about your pet:

And when in doubt, call your vet!

-Dr. Chuck