Written by Marjorie Dawson

How to Save Your Cat from Lily Poisoning

How to Save Your Cat from Lily Poisoning

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Do lilies kill cats? Yes, they do, and many people don’t realise that lily toxicity (lily poisoning) is a major cause of cat death. This post will help you understand what lily toxicity is and what it does to cats.

There is no substitute for skilled veternary help so take immediate action if you suspect your cat has licked lily pollen off its fur. If your vet is closed go to the nearest emergency vet clinic.

Signs of Lily Poisoning in Cats

Lily toxicity symptoms include:

  • depression,
  • diarrhea,
  • drooling, and 
  • dehydration 

Four Deadly D’s and, if you do not act, your cat can be dead in as little as four days.

Why is Lily Pollen on Cat Fur Dangerous?

Why? Because cats are fastidious creatures and pollen on their fur will be ingested (taken into their bodies) as they lick themselves clean. Pollen is the yellow dust on the stamens. These are long slender stalks in the middle of flowers supporting the yellow ‘anther’ covered in pollen, at the top. Stamens are common to tulips, lilies and other flowers.

Lily Danger Banner
Stamens are common to tulips, lilies and other flowers.

McLean says that if your cat has eaten part of a lily, the first thing you’ll see is vomiting soon afterwards. That may gradually lessen over two to four hours. Within 12 to 24 hours, the cat may start to urinate frequently. Then, if kidney failure sets in, the cat will stop urinating because the kidneys stop being able to produce urine. Untreated, she says, a cat will die within four to seven days of eating a lily.

American Food and Drug Administration.

How to Remove Lily Poison From Fur

You have two options for removing pollen from cat fur. Even if you use these, I still recommend a visit to the vet for safety’s sake.

  1. If the area is small and you can see the pollen dust, clip the fur off.
  2. Otherwise, you can thoroughly wash the area with mild washing up liquid (American: dish soap) and luke warm water or baby shampoo.

No your cat won’t like either of these but you will not risk your cat’s life by leaving the pollen on their fur.

Photograph Calla Lily New Zealand
Calla Lily

Lilies Kill by Destroying Cat Kidneys

  • Get your cat to a vet FAST. Do not delay.
  • If there is a veterinary hospital or specialist open nearby who can assist, head there. Specialist care is often needed for lily toxicity cases.
  • “Taking along a sample of the plant will make your veterinarian’s ability to diagnose the reaction that much easier, and treatment can be prescribed swiftly, minimizing the probability of long-term organ damage…”  PetMD.com

A Twitter friend shared an appeal by a friend who had lost their cat due to lily poisoning. The cat brushed against a flower, then cleaned its fur. It was so sad and disturbing to read and made me determined to help by alerting cat lovers to the danger of lilies and their pollen. 

  • One brush of cat fur against a lily flower, then
  • one cleansing lick to remove the pollen, 
  • and you could be faced with a serious feline emergency.  

Is There Treatment For Lily Toxicity?

There is but the lily poisoning in cats survival rate depends on the promptness of the pet owner in seeking treatment. Early diagnosis aids better treatment. I strongly recommend you read this easy to understand piece by Dr. Wedderburn DVM about the treatments that your vet might undertake. Scroll down to Treatment of Lily Poisoning in Cats.

When Phoebe, a 23-month-old cat from Missouri, took a few nibbles of a lily plant, her owners didn’t think a thing. Unfortunately neither Phoebe nor her owners were aware of the dire consequences that would ensue.

Ohio State Uni. Vet Med. Center

What Kinds of Lilies are Dangerous?

Most types of lily are dangerous so always view the lily genus with extreme caution and remove any lily from a bouquet or flower gift. In particular remove the pollen. Leafy Place blog has a comprehensive list of lily types with descriptions and images. Here are some names to get you started.

  1. Asiatic Hybrid Lilies
  2. Orange lily (Lilium bulbiferum)
  3. Tiger lily (Lilium Lancifolium)
  4. Martagon Lilies (Lilium Martagon)
  5. Candidum (Euro-Caucasian) Lilies
  6. American Lilies (American Hybrids)
  7. Trumpet Lilies (inc. Aurelian Lily Hybrids)

Lilies kill cats. Do not have this flower in your bouquet
Remove the Stamens if you have to keep lilies.

Our friend who lost her cat to lily poisoning was appealing for florists to have a lily warning alert in their shops, and online, and we wonder,. Why is this not common practice? We also believe that an appeal should be broadcast worldwide and on a regular basis.

Marjorie Dawson

Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can shoot and edit wonderful pictures they love regardless of the camera they use.

She is a Professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.

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35 thoughts on “How to Save Your Cat from Lily Poisoning”

  1. This is SO important for cat parents to know and recognize. We love having our gardens around the house including container gardens inside but we have always made a point of avoiding lilies for exactly this reason. Even in front of our house… While my cats only go out on a harness and never stay in the front yard (we hang out in the fenced back yard) there’s the chance that they could brush against it if they were to accidentally get loose or in the short time we’re taking them from the front door to the vehicle, and that’s too much of a risk for me to be okay with it.

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  2. Oh, wow. I was aware of lilies being toxic to cats but never realized that even the pollen is. And I can see how easily it could make its way from the fur into the cat’s mouth. Oh my.

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  3. I’ll share too to help spread the word. Flower shops having signs would be so helpful- Lillies are toxic to pups and I still see the plants in homes that I dog sit/walk for. 🙁

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  4. Wow! I had no idea about lilies and the dangers it poses to cats. Honestly, when my Dusty was alive I kept NO flowers in the house because she would always try to attempt to bite and eat the leaves. So from that point on I only kept faux flowers for her safety just in case. I figured better safe than sorry. This is very helpful information. I also love the video clip. I’ll be sharing this post to spread the word!

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  5. Lily flowers are so dangerous for kitties! Thank you for spreading the word. I, too, am surprised that it is not more commonplace for florists to know of the dangers of lillies to cats. I loved your video. It turned out great!

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  6. Wow! While I knew lilies were toxic to cats, I had no idea that the mere brushing of the pollen was this deadly. This is very valuable information! Thanks for sharing!

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  7. I’ve written about this topic, but I didn’t realize that even brushing kitty’s fur against a lily is toxic. It’s all lilies, not just Easter Lilies. And if your cats go outside, be sure they don’t have access to areas with Easter Lilies. Liked your video. Very nice.

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  8. Lilies are such beautiful flowers, it’s unfortunate that they are so dangerous to pets. They’re also toxic to dogs, although I don’t think they’re as deadly for dogs as they can be for cats.

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  9. I had a bouquet with a few lilies on my dining room table without knowing that they are bad for kitties she did throw up a few times and I noticed that her behavior started to change and I finally threw the flowers away because they were old but now she’s developed FHS do you guys think that there’s a connection?

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  10. Everybody who has a pet should be aware of plants that could poison them and opt for safe choices instead. Which is even easier with cats since they just stay at home.

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  11. Great reminder, Marjorie! Lilies are beautiful; but, as a cat mom I would not have them in or around my house. I agree that florists should have a lily warning clause in their shops and online. I wouldn’t use the services of any that weren’t willing to share this vital information. In fact, I am motivated to speak with my local florists and garden centres about it. Thank you!

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  12. Do cats naturally avoid plants that are poisonous to them? We were worried about our dog being around the tomato plants in our summer garden (solanine, an enzyme in the stems, leaves and young, unripe fruit can be harmful in large quantities) but she never seems to want to go near them. It doesn’t stop us from being vigilant of her in the backyard but I find it curious that she won’t even go near that box.

    Reply
    • I wonder if a dog can smell tomato leaves (?) They can be slightly pungent and this might deter a dog, especially as they have a good sense of smell?

      Cats brush against lilies and the pollen falls on their fur and this lets the pollen do serious kidney damage, but, as I am no expert, I have added veterinary advice at the bottom of the post so that people can check for further information online and ask their veterinarians.

      Reply
  13. I love lilies (except Easter lilies which I’m very allergic too.) But I don’t even have them in my yard. I’ve experienced lily poisoning. Not my cats but my best friend – her daughter got lilies in a dance recital bouquet and they didn’t know. Luckily they got Duke to the vet and he recovered.

    This really important info to get out there.

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  14. I had absolutely no idea that the pollen of the flower is this dangerous! Thanks for this great reminder about lilies – as with Easter, it appears it is the time to gift and or plant them. I totally agree that it would be great to have the big box stores (as well as smaller) to include a warning notice for lilies!

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  15. Thanks for the important and timely reminder. Easter always brings lilies out in the stores and some cat owners just don’t know the dangers.

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  16. Wow, I would have thought you just had to keep them out of reach of cats, not that the pollen itself was so dangerous. Definitely have to have absolutely NO lilies if you have cats!

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  17. My ex-husband apparently loved lilies because he would always get them for me – no matter how many times I told him not to. Thankfully, I just had Kitty at the time and she wasn’t really interested after sniffing them once (carefully monitored and then put up where she couldn’t get to it when I wasn’t there to watch her). The kicker was when I finally realized I am REALLY allergic to them. They have those pollen things that fall apart all over the place – and stain clothes. I don’t even really think they are beautiful. The whole thing should’ve been a HUGE red flag. Do not marry a guy who only gets you things HE thinks you should want instead of what you ACTUALLY want and use.

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  18. Nice Post! It is crazy that a beautiful Lilies are so poisonous and fatal to cats. It is crucial to get them to the vet fast if they get any of the flower or flower water in their mouth. I appreciate your prevention tips to help cats stay safe. (From Ava Jaine – Dachshund Station)

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  19. Especially needed to be heard since Easter and all its lilies is soon upon us.

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  20. This is such an important reminder. We never even bring lilies into the house, because as pretty as they are, they are just not worth risking Gracie and Ava’s lives.

    Thank you for hosting the Pet Parade! XO

    Reply

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