FDA Says Keep Lilies Away From Your Cats


April 14, 2014
Life & Non-humans

The white, trumpet-shaped Easter lily symbolizes Easter and spring for many people, and is a popular decoration in homes at this time of year.

If you have cats, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to remind you that these particular flowers, as well as Tiger, Asiatic, Day, and Japanese Show lilies, are a safety threat to your feline friends.

Eating small amounts of plants or grass may be normal for cats. But the entire lily plant (leaf, pollen, and flower) is poisonous to them, according to Melanie McLean, a veterinarian at FDA. Even if they just eat a couple of leaves or lick a few pollen grains off their fur, cats can suffer acute kidney failure within a very short period of time.

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.

Young cats typically have healthy kidneys, so when a young cat shows signs of acute kidney damage, consumption of a toxic substance is one of the first things veterinarians investigate, McLean says.

Early veterinary treatment is critical. McLean says that even if you just suspect that your cat has eaten a lily, you should call your veterinarian immediately or, if the office is closed, take your cat to an emergency veterinary clinic. The vet may induce vomiting if the cat just ate the lily, and will give the cat intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and preserve kidney function.

Other lilies, like Calla and Peace lilies, don’t cause fatal kidney failure, but they can irritate your cat’s mouth and esophagus. Lilies of the Valley are toxic to the heart, causing an abnormal heart rhythm. If you think your cat has eaten any type of lily, contact your veterinarian.

Lilies are not a great danger to dogs, McLean says. Dogs may have some gastrointestinal issues if they eat a lily, but nothing considered life-threatening. Does this mean that you can’t have lilies in your home if you have a cat? Although it’s best not to have them in your home, if you want to enjoy these pretty spring flowers, McLean says to be sure to keep the plant someplace that your high-jumping pet can’t reach.



FDA Says Keep Lilies Away From Your Cats

8 Responses to FDA Says Keep Lilies Away From Your Cats

  1. Anita Greene May 18, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    Lilies are harmful to people too, especially little ones. Don’t let children chew on them. The flowers, the pollen, the leaves, and the corms. All dangerous.

  2. Anneke Viljoen (14028647) May 4, 2014 at 1:46 am #

    For me it is really interesting to read the other comments on this blog. It is astonishing to read that none of the bloggers knew about the dangers that a lily flower held for our innocent cats, including me. I definitely agree that cat owners and all pet owners for that matter should do a little research on the dangers that surrounds our lovable pets. We do have the responsibility to look after them for they can not always do this themselves.

  3. Anneke Viljoen (14028647) May 2, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    I have been a cat owner for nine years now and this is the first time that I hear that a harmless lily, or not so harmless after all, can cause the death of my little feline friend. Fortunately we do not have lilies in our garden but I know my furry friend likes to visit the neighbours very often and who knows where my cat could have encountered some lilies on his visits. After reading this article I now realise that we should be more careful what we feed our pets. We have a responsibility towards them. All I can say is: I hope my cat stays away from lilies in other people’s gardens.

  4. Muhammad Seedat 14121388 May 1, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    As a proud cat owner and studying veterinarian, I found this blog to be most interesting. I have been made aware of a danger to my cats health by something growing in my own backyard! The white lily grows abundantly in my garden and my mother often decorates the house with them, unknowingly posing a great risk to my cat.

    Here in South Africa, lilies are quite common and I’m sure MANY people are unaware of the dangers they possess. Cats love to speed and dodge through all the different plants in a garden, and the pollen of a lily falls out very easily from its trumpet, in my experience. This makes cats easily susceptible to their fur being pollen infested, and licking it away is a cats only way of cleaning its fur. Cats are very “hygiene conscious”, so if there is pollen or any other speckle on their fur coat, you can be sure that it will be licked clean.

    Our ignorance of a lily’s danger also puts our cats in harms way. I, for one, have even used a lily to play with my cat. Its long stem and wide trumpet make the best ‘toy’ you can use to flick at your cat and watch him playfully try and catch and claw at. I was lucky that my cat has escaped unharmed all these years, but he could have easily suffered because of my ignorance. Some people even gift others with a basket of lilies and a cats natural instinct is to sniff anything new in the home, thus another way of the pollen infecting cats.

    None of us were really aware of this danger. Based on my careless actions, which is also very likely in other homes too, our cats are at risk to our ignorance. Awareness of harmful lilies should be made.

  5. Michelle Adams (u14023432) April 23, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    I found this article very enlightening. We as pet owners do not always realize what is poisonous to our pets and we might give them food out of love, but these food items might actually be bad for them. I think the key to preventing this from happening to your cats and even your dogs, is to know what is poisonous to them and preventing them from being around those plants or eating those food items.

    So what everyday items can be poisonous to cats, other than lilies? Well, this might surprise a lot of people but milk is actually poisonous to cats. They are lactose intolerant, because their bodies cannot break down the sugar contained in the milk and this can lead to them having diarrhea and becoming dehydrated. Other food items that are poisonous for cats are: raw eggs which prevent vitamin B from being absorbed and can cause problems with their skin and fur; garlic,leeks,onions and chives because it damages red blood cells and causes an upset stomach. Just like dogs cats are also poisoned by chocolate.

    What food items are poisonous for dogs? Chocolate can cause them to have seizures and in extreme cases can lead to death. Garlic,leeks,onions and chives have the same effect on dogs as it has on cats. Grapes, currents and raisins are also very poisonous to dogs and cause their liver to fail. Macadamia nuts are also bad for them and can make them very sleepy, cause vomiting and can impair their ability to walk. Sugarless gum contains a sweetner that can stimulate a dog’s pancreas to produce insulin and therefore leads to low blood sugar levels and can cause liver damage.

    I think that we as owners have the responsibility to research what can give our animals to eat and what plants they can be around because it is our duty to look after them and keep them safe.

    References: http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/pet-poisons-from-a-to-z-26-common-items-that-are-dangerous-to-cats-and-dogs
    http://pets.webmd.com/cats/ss/slideshow-foods-your-cat-should-never-eat

  6. u14008743 April 23, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    As a cat owner myself, I am definitely aware of the fact that my cat eats grass and small plants, but I was shocked to hear that some can actually me harmful to their health! Especially such beautiful flowers as lilies. If it was not for this post, I probably never would have know of the serious dangers these flowers present. This is a terrifying fact that I think all cat owners and lovers should be made aware of, especially since the effects are so severe.

  7. u14005868 April 22, 2014 at 4:39 am #

    As mentioned above, most people will not be aware of the threat that lilies will pose on their cats. It was definitely news to me. I am of the opinion that awareness needs to be raised on this issue – as I’m sure many cat-owners have unknowingly decorated their homes and unintentionally seriously harmed – or killed – their pets.
    I do agree that labels warning people of the dangers of lilies (and any other purchasable plant or substance) should be attached. However, I am quite certain that most of the sellers of these flowers are too completely unaware of the harm these beautiful flowers can cause. I believe that it is both the responsibility of the seller to research the potential dangers of their product, as well as the responsibility of the researchers to make their discoveries more well-known and spread awareness on the issues.
    I too am passionate about animals, and would strongly despise discovering that I have harmed my cat due to sheer oblivion. I hope that more people will be able to find out about this issue, as I’m sure many family-cats can be saved.

  8. u14007097 April 21, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    This article raises a very serious issue in my mind: How many people are actually aware of this danger to their cats?
    For many people, lilies symbolize a happy Easter as well as happiness and prosperity and therefore, may have a great significance in many households. Lilies are also frequently given as gifts, but I wonder if the gift givers and receivers are aware that the household cats could be facing terrible health risks simply buy being exposed to the lilies. Cats are very often attracted to plants because they smell and taste nice or because they are just fun to play with. Little does the cat know that it will soon be facing a life or death situation if it decides to eat the lily.
    As an avid animal lover, I strongly believe that it is the florists’ responsibility to put a warning on the labels of the lilies that they are selling, because I’m sure there are many people who are unaware of the dangerous health risk to their cats. There should also be a list of the warning signs of kidney failure on the label of the lilies, such as vomiting, frequent urination and then halted urination as stated in the article.
    Cats are considered members of the family by many households. Do you see any toys or tools that humans use or foods that humans consume that do not have some sort of warning for choking hazards or allergies? No. Shouldn’t it be the same for all members of the family, pets included?

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