Are lilies dangerous for cats?


My cat's veterinarian advised me not to bring lilies into my home. Are they really that dangerous?


A recent article in the Journal of American Animal Hospital Association on lily exposure in 57 cats included statistics on cat owners’ awareness of lily toxicity. 73% of the owners had no knowledge of risk, and 27% knew of potential threat but brought lilies into the home anyway. If these numbers are representative for all cat “families,” that means there are a lot of people who need to know about this problem.

Eating even tiny amounts of Lilium or Hemerocallis species causes acute kidney failure in cats, and all parts — flower, leaves, even pollen — are potentially toxic. There is no test for lily toxicity — the diagnosis is based on known or suspected history of ingestion, or seeing parts of the plant in vomit. While the cause of the toxic principle in the plant is still unknown, we do know that early and aggressive therapy is needed to save these cats.

Initial treatment is induction of vomiting to empty the stomach as soon as possible after ingestion, ideally within an hour, and administering medication to prevent absorption of the toxin from the gastrointestinal tract, followed by 48 hours of IV fluid therapy to ensure the kidneys continue to function properly. As long as cats receive prompt and complete treatment, and kidney values remain normal 48 to 72 hours later, the cats have a good long term prognosis.

However, if cats do not receive early intervention, signs of kidney failure typically develop in 2 to 4 days and the mortality rate is high. Lilies are a serious threat to cats. If you are already in the 27% who know about this risk, but bring home lilies anyway, please think again!