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Feline Friday: Beware Easter Lilies!


The gorgeous lily makes its appearance each year, decorating church, home, and garden. I can’t have them in my house, though.  I won’t to risk having an Easter lily anywhere near my cat Seren. For cats, the fragrant blooms can mean death.

Many lilies are lethal to cats. Easter lilies, stargazer lilies, and Asiatic lilies are the most dangerous, and different cats react in various ways. The plants contain a chemical that can damage the kidneys, and kill your cat. Just biting a leaf or petal, or licking up the water from the vase can be enough to cause serious kidney disease.

Spring kitten

Artificial flowers may be just the ticket, as in this posed shot.

Dogs often gnaw leaves, dig up the plant, or eat the whole thing. Cats aren’t as likely to eat plants, but just biting a lily leaf or petal can kill kitty. Felines more often paw-pat and shred leaves and stems during play, and may be poisoned when they later lick and clean their paws and claws.

Cats poisoned by lily toxin typically suffer kidney failure within 36 to 72 hours. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy or loss of appetite. Some cats suffer permanent kidney damage and lose their lives, while others can recover if treated in time with dialysis that gives the organs enough time to heal.

Seren eating yellow roses

Roses can injure cats if they bite thorns, but aren't toxic and actually are edible...according to Seren!

The easiest way to protect your cats is to keep toxic plants out of reach—or out of your house altogether. Besides lilies, other potential harmful plants include rhododendron, sago palm, kalanchoe and schefflera. Azalea can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma and death. Eating or chewing caladium, dieffenbachia or philodendron makes the tongue and throat swell up so breathing is difficult. Mother-in-law’s tongue (snake plant) causes everything from mouth irritation to collapse. Crown of thorns and English ivy will prompt thirst, vomiting and diarrhea, stomach pain, and death in one to two days. Holly also causes stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

Peace Lily

You can keep your pet family members safe and sound by choosing only pet-friendly safe varieties for your garden and home. Calla Lilies (below) and peace lilies (above), which don’t belong to the Lilium genus, are harmless to cats.

Calla Lily

There are many other plants that prompt mild problems, such as excess salivation or mouth discomfort. Keeping these out of reach of curious paws may be sufficient to protect your animals. But pet lovers should steer clear of the worst plant offenders, both inside and out. If you see your pet with one or more of these signs, particularly if a suspect plant is within reach, get help immediately! First aid can save the cat or dog’s life. Then take the pet to see the veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Different poisons require very specific first aid. Usually that will be either 1) induce vomiting, (cats do this on their own very well–but never when you want them to!) or 2) give milk or water to wash out the mouth and dilute the poison. Making the pet vomit the wrong poisonous plant, though, could make a serious situation even more deadly, so you MUST know what to do for each type of plant.

Detailed advice for dealing with the most common plant poisoning is available in the book The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. The ASPCA Animal Poison-Control Center is available for telephone consultations (1-888-426-4435) in case of poisoning emergency.

What cat-safe plants do you have in your home? How do you keep the cat from destroying/eating them? Have you ever had a kitty-plant encounter of the dangerous kind? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

13 responses »

  1. Thankfully our cats are not plant-chewers (aside from Simba drinking the water out of my mint bucket), but we still try to keep anything majorly dangerous out of the house.

    Granted right now we only have ONE plant inside anyway…

  2. Thank you for your interesting post, I didn’t know about lillies.

  3. I second this warning. Only a month ago a friend was given lilies for her birthday. Her cat was not a plant-chewer but he must somehow have come in touch with one of the flowers, perhaps from pollen that had fallen onto furniture. After several days touch-and-go in the vet hospital, body swollen to triple his normal size, he died. My friend is devastated, not only at the loss of the companion of 11 years who saw her through cancer, meeting her husband, and the birth of her two children, but also at the guilt she carries, blaming herself for not remembering this danger. Thank you Amy for this post: I caution everyone who has cats to be extra careful not to let these plants into your home.

  4. Thanks for this reminder.

    Our indoor kitty had an outdoor background and does not chew plants. But then he did a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately apparently a one or two time thing and not a dangerous plant but a frightening reminder.

    We have a yard full of azaleas and many outdoor cats pass through but mostly their mommies seem to have warned them. They sometimes use the bark to sharpen their claws or climb in and hide (in case a bird is near) but they don’t eat them. I am spoiled to having had cats that were instructed mostly by their mothers.

    Our previous indoor dearie was indoor/outdoor and once evidenced interest in the azaleas. My husband hissed at him like a mama cat does and he understood and never evidenced interest again. (He had been taken from his mother too young by feral children who grabbed him and we rescued him from them.)

  5. I’m so glad to see this . . . I have a good friend who has many of these plants and a new kitty. I’m forwarding her your link right now! 🙂

  6. Yikes! Glad you could send to your friend Bridgette!

  7. This is such important info, Amy. Thanks! Off to forward right now! How’s the show going?

    • Hi Patricia, the preview show last Thursday went very well. We have a Mon-Tues-Weds rehearsal this week, then the premier. Ticket sales are brisk, always a good thing!


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