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Posted on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 7:45 a.m.

Despite Easter lilies' beauty, they pose an inherent danger to cats

By Lorrie Shaw


flickr photo by Eric Bennett

Cats are curious creatures, as anyone who shares life with them will tell you. And while their escapades in exploring the great indoors and outdoors don’t typically yield serious harm in the majority of cases, you’d be surprised at what seemingly-innocent items can cause their well-being to be put into jeopardy.

We all know felines can be seriously injured when they suffer a fall from an open window or can surely die from ingesting radiator coolant, but one of the most toxic items known to affect cats could be adorning your mantle as you read this.

The Easter season is a popular time to give gifts to others — especially flowers. And with holiday gatherings and travel in the works, this particular danger is a topic that I remind my clients of each year at this time.

Lilies are a common sight when entering most homes this time of year, as many hostesses and Moms out there can attest, and soon the botanical beauties will be shooting out of the soil and blooming in our backyards as well.

Sadly, there are countless cats each year poisoned by Easter lilies and their relatives (Day lily, Asiatic lily ,Tiger lily, etc.) by chewing on or eating them.

They are pretty, but it's important to note that all parts of the plant are poisonous to cats. This means the petals, pollen, stamen and pistil, so cat-proofing your home and yard is essential.

A lot of people aren’t aware of the danger, and by the time their feline friend shows signs of illness, it can be too late. Prompt treatment is necessary to address the illness successfully.

A ‘wait-and-see’ attitude doesn’t bode well in cases where any illness rises without warning, and especially with lily toxicosis. In fact, if an animal doesn’t get treatment within 12-18 hours of ingestion, it can die.

It’s vital that you take note of your cat’s symptoms, document them and convey them to the treating veterinarian immediately. Remember, you are your pet's voice.

What symptoms are consistent with lily toxicosis?

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

If you haven’t seen your cat chew on or eat the plant, the only way to be certain that they are suffering from lily toxicosis is to see parts of the plant in its vomit, so if you can, retrieve what you can of the vomitus and put in a small, sealed container and bring it with you to the veterinarian.

Why this is such a problem with felines in particular? It comes down to what happens in the body.

Acute renal (kidney) failure takes place, and occurs as early as 36-72 hours after ingestion.

What are the signs of a cat being sickened by lilies? Once renal failure ensues, a cat will experience:

  • increased thirst
  • increased urination initially, followed by lowered urine output, and eventually, no urine output at all
  • dehydration

At this time, the toxic constituent of lilies is not known.

Treatment objectives for cats with lily toxicosis are limited, at best. Aggressive intravenous fluids to help prevent kidney failure, and in some cases, flushing the stomach can be helpful. This will remove any portions of the toxic agent that are left in the stomach.

Prevention is the best choice.

Cat-proof your home and yard and make it a lily-free zone.

Looking for safe alternatives for Easter plant gifts and outdoor plantings? Here are a few ideas:

  • Gerbera daisy
  • African violet
  • catnip (yay!)
  • waffle plant
  • chia plant (we know them as Chia Pets)
  • hyacinth
  • purple passion plant
  • spider plant
  • orchids
  • tulips

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly and subscribe to's email newsletters.



Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

In the interest of horticultural accuracy -- "Easter" and Asiatic lilies are botanically Family: Liliaceae, Genus: Lilium . They are NOT relatives of Daylily, which is Family: Xanthorrhoeaceae, Genus: Hemerocallis Daylily may be poisonous to cats, but it's not because of its family relations. Unless all monocots are poisonous to cats?