The lily is an attractive and fragrant flower and a common choice for Easter. Lilies, however, cause severe kidney damage in cats.
Which type of lily causes a problem?
Lilies, specifically all species of Lilium (true lily) and Hemerocallis (daylily) are poisonous to cats. It is important to be aware that many plants have “lily” in their names, such as lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), peace lily (Spathiphyllum species), and calla or arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica), but these plants may have different toxic effects.
Lilies that are toxic to cats:
Hemerocallis species — Daylily
Lilium x asiatica — Asiatic lily
Lilium x asiatica americana
Lilium candidum — Madonna lily
Lilium hydridum — Japanese showy lily
Lilium lancifolium (Lilium tigrinum) — Tiger lily
Lilium longiforum — Easter lily
Lilium orientalis — Stargazer lily; oriental lily
Lilium regale — Royal lily
Lilium rubrum — Rubrum lily
Lilium umbellatum — Western or wood lily
How are cats poisoned by lilies?
The vast majority of cases of lily poisoning occur in the home, usually from flowers in a bouquet or a potted plant. Additionally, cats may be exposed to lilies in the garden. All parts of the plant—the pollen, stem, flowers, and leaves—are toxic. It is also possible that the water the flowers are kept in could be poisonous. Just your cat brushing past a flower and licking the pollen off their coat could cause illness.
Once ingested, the toxin could cause kidney damage and in severe cases, the kidneys could fail completely.
Signs of poisoning include drooling, vomiting, refusing food, lethargy, and depression and a vet may find enlarged and painful kidneys upon examination.
Can cats survive if they eat part of a lily plant?
The answer is yes IF they are treated promptly. If exposure to lilies is suspected, contact your vet immediately. Wash off any pollen on the coat to prevent the cat eating any more, and take them straight to the clinic.
How can lily poisoning be prevented?
Keep lilies out of the house. It is not worth the risk of putting them out of reach—cats are curious and great climbers—and there are many other attractive, fragrant flowers that do not cause such devastating illness. (See http://icatcare.org/advice/poisonous-plants to check the plants you have in your home and garden are not toxic).
If you see your cat in contact with a lily plant, contact your vet immediately and encourage them to discuss the case with the Veterinary Poisons Information Service.