Lily poisoning in cats

Lilies - the stamens can easily be removed but ALL parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten

Lilies - the stamens can easily be removed but ALL parts of the plant are poisonous to cats if eaten.

Lilies are beautiful flowers, exotic in appearance and heavily scented. They are often included in bouquets and floral arrangements, but cat owners need to know that they are extremely poisonous if eaten, or even if pollen is accidentally swallowed whilst grooming after brushing against a lily.

It is thought that all parts of the lily flower and plant are poisonous to cats if eaten, and the effects are very serious and very fast. Only a very small amount needs to be eaten to cause devastating effects. Unfortunately kittens are most susceptible, not only because of their size but also because of their natural curiosity and tendency to investigate everything.

The poison acts mainly on the kidneys and is absorbed very rapidly. The first sign is usually severe vomiting but cats may also show loss of appetite, depression, salivation, twitching or collapse. Sadly, a high number of them will die due to irreversible kidney damage. Others will survive but have permanent kidney damage. Only a lucky few will survive without long-lasting effects.

The most important factor in treatment is seeking rapid veterinary help. Any cat which has been seen to eat part of a lily or is vomiting and has had possible contact with lilies, should be considered a veterinary emergency. There is no specific antidote to lily poisoning, but the chance of survival will be increased by giving fluid therapy as early as possible. By placing the cat on a drip, the kidneys are helped to eliminate the toxin and limit the damage to the kidneys. The rate of administration of fluids will be much higher than usual and will need to continue for several days if the cat is recovering. If a cat is presented very early, even before vomiting has occurred, it might be useful to induce vomiting to try to stop toxin being absorbed, or to lavage, or wash out, the stomach or to try to line the stomach with a charcoal substance to reduce further absorption. Other drugs may be given as well, particularly if there are neurological symptoms such as twitching, salivating or fitting.

I have seen several cases of lily poisoning in cats over the years, and sadly, at least half of them died or were put to sleep because the effects were so severe.

In my opinion, the warnings on lilies sold in some shops are not obvious enough. Some labels may carry a single line such as “Lily pollen is harmful to cats if eaten”, but this does not really convey the seriousness of the situation or advise the buyer that immediate action is needed. Some supermarket lilies have had the pollen bearing parts removed, but this does not change the fact that all parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten rather than just brushed against.

If you own a cat it is worth considering keeping lilies out of your house altogether, or at least out of reach. Bear in mind that a healthy curious cat can reach most things if it puts its mind to it!

If you are worried that your cat may have eaten part of a lily, or about any other health problems, please contact your vet immediately.

  • Andy Henderson says:

    Jenny,

    I am entirely in agreement with your penultimate paragraph that there are insufficient warnings about the risks that lilies pose to cats. We lost one of our young Bangali cats (only 18 months old) to lily poisoning only yesterday. Our vet battled for 5 days so save her but when multiple organ failure and haemorrhaging set in on Sunday afternoon we decided the kindest thing was to put her to sleep. We feel awful that we were the cause of her death. My wife had been presented with a bouquet of flowers just before Christmas containing lilies, and it is too much of a co-incidence for there to be any other cause of death. There was no warning on the packaging at all. I am currently drafting an article that I intend submitting to our local press and village magazines in an effort to raise the profile of this danger. We are very relieved that our other Bangali cat (sister to the one that died) is still alive, well and showing no symptoms of poisoning.

    Regards, Andy Henderson.

  • Jenny says:

    Dear Andy,
    I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your cat through suspected lily
    poisoning. It is a very distressing condition and I welcome all efforts to
    make people more aware of the risks. Well done for your determination to
    make this more widely known which can only help to save cats lives in the
    future.
    My condolences once again.
    Jenny

  • Melissa says:

    hello iv just rushed my two 5month old kittens to the vets as i saw them both sniffing around some lily’s that my mum got me, they both seemed fine in themselves but they did both have pollen around there faces im so worried about them :-(

  • caroline says:

    I have just picked up my 10 week old kitten from the vets after he ate some lilly flowers! i came home to find him covered in pollen and suspected he may have eaten the flowers. I rang the vets to see if there we’re any dangers with what he had done and they told me to bring him down straight away wiyhin 2 hours he had had an injection to make him vomit that confirmed he had eaten 2 lilly petals and one stalk. they washed all the pollen off him and after being on a drip for 24hrs hes back home with activated coal. he’s had blood tests this morning that we’re all clear and i will be taking him back next week for more to check his renal function. so fingers crossed! I am so appauled that these flowers do not come with a warning on them!

  • Dolly says:

    So worried. Looking after a friends 3 month old kitten, while they are out of the country, and about an hour ago I caught her eating a stamen from a stargazer lily on the windowsill. She had a small amount of pollen on her nose, which I washed off immediately. Called the vet, who said to bring her in if she started becoming unwell, but she seems fine so far.
    I owned a Siamese cat for 16 years, and never heard of lilies being poisonous to cats!! I often had lilies around the house. I have now removed the flowers to a place the kitten can’t get to, but I really wish that a large print notice would be placed on any flowers that are dangerous to pets, and intend to write to all supermarkets to ask them to do this.

  • Denise says:

    I cannot believe the lack of publicity concerning the terrible danger these flowers are to cats. Something needs to be done. My daughters 2 kittens are at present be treated for this and the RSPCA are doing what they can…….. we are very worried after reading all the facts. Not only is all this very distressing it is very expensive as vets fees are not cheap. Hopefully they will survive but then will they have kidney or other problems in later life which will be awful for the cats and further treatment costly!!!!! The lilies came from Tescos and there are no large signs to says DEADLY TO CATS!!!!!!! Will let you know the outcome……..

  • Liz says:

    I recently received a bouquet of lilies (orange – Tiger?)when I returned home from the hospital. My cat, 8 yrs. of age, has NEVER vomited, but started vomiting and in the vomit was part of a Tiger Lilly. I looked up poisoning, saw one symptom is no urine. I checked his box, and no urine was in it. We rushed him to the vet, and he is being given intrveinous treatments, etc. WHERE WAS THE WARNING ON THE FLOWERS???

  • Laura Fern says:

    My 6 month old kitten is at the vets as we speak, having come in close contact with some lilies, he has been on a drip for 24 hours and needs to be kept on this now for at least another 24 hours, the vet said he is bright in himself but not passing urine, which is not a good sign, i never thought that lilies would cause this, i will be writing a letter to tescos explaining what has happened as i also think the labeling needs to be more clear for cat owners

  • Jenny says:

    Hello,

    The day before yesterday I noticed my cat had pollen on her nose and paw, I new it had come from the bouquet of flowers my boyfriend had bought me for valentines day, Lilly’s were the only flower in it that the pollen would have come from, my cat is 15 an old loving girl, I vagley remember my mum telling me that Lilly’s can harm cats, I went on the Internet straight away and found this colume, at the end it says to contact your vet and I did, inky was rushed in and given treatment, I was told last night to prepare for the worst, amazingly my strong girl made it through and quiet honestly and can say is sitting on my lap at this very moment while I’m writing this.
    The main reason she is alive is because I acted on it so fast and I feel I have this sight to thank for that. So a massive thank you for informing people of this, you have saved my cats life, xxxxx

  • Lilly's mom says:

    Just came back from emergency.. I suspected that my little Lilly ate lily! I didn’t know its poisonous otherwise I will not buy it!
    I took her to the vet after 3 hrs and she is there now.. I hope she will be fine.. She was eating drinking and went to her litter box after that.. However I couldn’t take the risk to Lise her..

    I believe warning sign should be their if this is poisonous plant..

  • Ann Cupcakes Mom says:

    Our 5 yr old Gray longhair cat, Cupcake, ate part of a lilly leaf from a bouquet I got from being in the hospital. Immediately we took her to the emergency vet–within 30 minutes of ingestion–and she is spending her second night at a vet hospital. It is a horrible thing, not knowing if she will make it. She is such an important part of our small family and the unknown is killing me. The bill will be the cost of a car, but it is worth it if she survives. (Not like I have the money, but as my daughter’s sole parent and Cupcake being her angel with four legs and fur…I would do anything to bring Cupcake back!!!) Cupcake is doing her second night at the vet hospital and may have a few more days–we will continue visiting her 2x per day.Just hope she makes it and I will personally pass the word to Animal Shelters, Pet stores and Florists about the horrific deadly consequence of lilies around cats. Wish is well and I will keep you posted.

  • ellis says:

    I brought home some leftover lilies from a party I went to, I was lucky enough to have heard that cats were allergic to lily pollen, so i looked it up just in case and I now have moved the lilies to a safe place where my two cats, Bubbles and Twilight, can not reach them. stores should provide a large notice on lilies and any other plants that are a threat to our pets.
    deeply sorry if anyone’s cat has been harmed or killed in this consequence.

  • My wife tells me that apart from Lillys there are other flowers which can be harmful for cats and these are labelled as such by Marks & Spencers when buying such flowers at their stores so keep a watch out. Regrettably we have now had to exclude Lillys etc from our house as we have two young cats, Quinn and Maisy, who sniff everything.

  • Ruby says:

    My young cat is now on a drip at the vets after touching some lily pollen. Beside myself.
    I hope all the stories above of cats in vets had happy endings x

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