Beautiful and fragrant as many varieties of lily are, they pose an extreme danger to the cats. Any part of the lily, even the pollen, is toxic to cats if ingested and even a small amount is deadly. Unfortunately they often come into homes as part of a bouquet or as a potted plant and curious cats will nibble on the leaves or brush near the flower and get pollen on their coat. They may also eat a leaf or flower in the garden and, in either case, they’ll become extremely ill and often die.
All this comes from personal experience. My one year-old cat, even though I had her on a leash, managed to mistake a daylily leaf for a blade of grass (they look very similar) and scarfed down a four inch piece while I had my back turned. I noticed the fresh bite on the leaf and phoned the ASPCA poison control line to see if daylilies were as dangerous as the Asiatic lily that often comes in bouquets. They told me to get her to the vet as soon as possible as it’s the same class of plant. The vet gave Zena hydrogen peroxide, a treatment to make her throw up. Luckily it worked and we identified the piece of daylily leaf.
Even though we removed the poisonous item they told me that even a trace of this poison left in her stomach could destroy her kidneys, so she would have to spend at least 48 hours at the emergency clinic being constantly monitored by a vet and technician. They kept her on a constant IV drip with fluids to help remove the poison and hopefully stop it from destroying her kidneys. She seems to have recovered without any ill effects, but the vet cautioned there are no tests that show kidney damage until there is only 25% of the kidney functioning so she still could have damage that will compromise her kidneys later in life. He said we were very lucky as usually they don’t see the cats that have ingested the plant until they start showing symptoms and often there is no help for them.
The most common symptoms are vomiting, anorexia and depression or lethargy. Less often hypersalivation, twitching and hyperthermia are seen. Signs of renal failure are usually seen within 24 hours.
As little as one leaf can cause a fatality. Using Diuresis (increasing urine production) helps to eliminate what is left in the system and limit damage to the kidneys. If the treatment is not started within 18 hours the prognosis is very poor. Unfortunately the cat may not arrive at the vet’s office within this time frame and it will be probably too late for effective treatment.
Indoor cats may be a greater risk as they may not have access to greens indoors and will be interested in any plant material, though they do prefer grass.
Some examples of lilies that are nephrotoxic to cats are: Daylily (hemerocallis), Asiatic Lily (Lilium asiatic), Tiger Lily (Lilium Tigrinlum), Easter Lily/Longiflorum Lily (Lilium loniflorum), Stargazer Lily (Lilium orientalis), Japanese Showy Lily (Lilium hydridum), Rubrum Lily (lilium rubrum) and Western or Wood Lily (Lilium umbellatum). This is not a complete list as there are many varieties of lily.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s phone number is 1.888.426.4435. Their poison hotline is staffed by veterinarians and operates 24 hours, 7 days a week for information and instructions on what to do if your pet has ingested plants or substances that you suspect may be poisonous. At the present time there is a charge of $65USD for a veterinarian’s advice. Their poison control website has a list on toxic and non-toxic plants, poisonous household products and more here.
Written by Laura Bartlet