Lily poisoning in cats

Lilies are very poisonous to cats. All parts of the plant are poisonous, including the stem, leaves, flowers, and pollen. Lily poisoning can happen to cats of any age, sex, or breed. Call a vet immediately if you think your cat has ingested any part of a lily or its vase water.

Lilies are beautiful flowers. They’re extremely popular in bouquets and gardens across the country. But eating a small amount of leaf, stem, petal or pollen risks life-threatening kidney failure in cats. There’s no antidote. Without immediate treatment, cats with lily poisoning are unlikely to survive.


What is lily poisoning in cats?

There are different types of lilies and they vary in the seriousness of the poisoning they cause.

  • The true lily and daylily family are the most deadly: Easter lilies, Stargazer lilies, Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies, and Tiger lilies.
  • All parts of these lilies are poisonous to cats.
  • Ingesting a small amount of petal, leaf or pollen is enough to cause life-threatening kidney damage.
  • We don’t know what the actual toxin is yet.
  • Peace lilies and Cala lilies are toxic to cats, but less deadly. They may cause temporary mouth irritation, drooling, and vomiting.


There are 3 ways cats get lily poisoning:

  • Eating the leaf, petal, stem or pollen
  • Drinking water from a vase containing lilies
  • Ingesting a few grains of pollen when they groom themselves after brushing past lilies and getting pollen on their coats


Other plants have lily in the name, although they’re not really lilies as such. But these can also be very poisonous to cats.

  • Lily of the Valley causes an irregular rate or rhythm of your cat’s heartbeats. This can be life-threatening for cats.
  • Roots or tubers of the Gloriosa or Flame lily contain enough toxins to cause multiple organ failure and death.


What are the symptoms of lily poisoning in cats?

The symptoms of lily poisoning in cats usually begin within a couple of hours of ingestion.

Early symptoms: 0-2 hours after ingestion:

Symptoms of kidney damage: 12-24 hours after ingestion

  • Urinating more
  • Becoming dehydrated
  • Worsening lethargy
  • Twitching and/or tremors
  • Collapse

Acute kidney failure: 24-72 hours after ingestion

  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Sudden or unexpected death


Which cats are most at risk of lily poisoning?

Any cat who ingests part of a lily is at risk of poisoning. There’s no breed, age or sex predisposition.

Lifestyle and home factors present the greatest risks:

  • Having access to outdoors and gardens with lilies. Unknown exposure may delay identification and treatment.
  • Living with owners unaware of the risks: cut lilies are displayed in the house or grown in the garden.
  • Having a curious personality: sniffing or brushing against lilies.
  • Having a tendency to eat houseplants in general.


How do vets diagnose lily poisoning in cats?

Vets carry out the following tests to confirm the diagnosis and severity of lily poisoning. And to investigate symptoms where there has been possible exposure to lilies:

Vet treatment

How do vets treat lily poisoning in cats?

There is no antidote to lily poisoning. Call a vet as soon as you suspect your cat has ingested any amount of lily plant or pollen. Take the lily or a photo to your vet to help them identify how poisonous it is.

Vet treatment within 0-2 hours of ingestion:

  • An injection to empty your cat’s tummy (emesis).
  • Activated charcoal to prevent absorption of any more toxins from the gut.
  • Washing their fur to remove any traces of pollen or plant debris.

Cats showing symptoms of lily poisoning or too late for emesis:

  • Hospital admission for intensive care and treating acute kidney failure
  • Lots of fluids into your cats veins to prevent dehydration
  • Anti-sickness medication

Once the failing kidneys stop producing any urine, the only possible treatment is kidney dialysis at a specialist veterinary hospital.

Fewer than 50% of cats will survive once symptoms of lily poisoning progress to kidney damage. Early emergency care is essential.


Home treatment

Caring for a cat recovering from lily poisoning at home.

There are no home remedies for cats with possible kidney poisoning. Urgent veterinary care is the only option.

Do not try to make your cat sick at home. The internet may be full of suggestions. But these are dangerous to cats and risk life-threatening caustic burns, choking, asphyxia and aspiration pneumonia.

If you see your cat nibbling or brushing against lilies:

  • Remove them from danger immediately
  • Call a vet
  • Wipe or wash any traces of pollen or plant material from their fur

Cats who survive lily poisoning may be left with long-term kidney damage and chronic kidney disease. Treatment for CKD is lifelong and includes a special diet and prescription medicines.


Lily poisoning cannot pass from one cat to another or from cats to humans. However, all cats exposed to lilies are equally at-risk. Dogs may suffer tummy upsets from lilies. But not life-threatening illness.


How to prevent lily poisoning in cats

The safest way to protect all cats is to understand the risks and keep lilies out of their environment.

  • Received a floral bouquet with lilies? Remove the lilies completely. Dispose of any water they arrived in. And rinse the stems of remaining flowers before filling a vase with fresh water.
  • Lilies in the garden? If your cat roams outdoors or spends time in the garden, remove any existing lily plants.
  • Check your outdoor cat’s coat for traces of pollen whenever they come indoors. Brush them regularly.
  • Provide safe cat grass as an alternative for cats who like to eat grass (it’s normal!).
  • Consider keeping your cat indoors if the risk is too great outside.

When to worry

When to worry about lily poisoning in cats

Find your nearest vet if your cat is:

  • Not responding to you
  • Collapsed
  • Having seizures after a sudden illness

Call a vet immediately if your cat is:

  • Known or suspected to have ingested any part of a lily
  • Drooling or vomiting, especially with blood
  • Suddenly drinking and peeing more

Joii can help with:

  • Recognising dangers and poisons for cats
  • Understanding the symptoms and treatment of chronic kidney disease
  • Support for unexpected bereavement
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