When eaten by cats, lily plants can cause severe and
often fatal kidney disease.
What lilies cause problems?
Many lily species can cause the malady including the tiger, Easter, day, glory and stargazer
lilies, as well as the Japanese show lily, the Asian lily and the Rubrum lily.
The peace and calla lily also cause kidney disease but through a different mechanism and the
lily-of-the-valley is also dangerous but is different again as it causes heart disease.
All parts of the lily plant are dangerous, including the flowers, stamens, stems, leaves and
How dangerous are lilies?
Dr Braddock says that while the toxic dose is unknown, only small quantities of the plants
need to be eaten to cause disease. She reports of a case involving a 12-week-old kitten that
had eaten small amounts of a lily plant. The plant formed part of a flower bouquet that was
delivered to the owner’s apartment. This kitten made a full recovery but such is not always
the case because the outcome can often be severe, irreversible renal failure within three to
seven days of exposure.
She states that while outdoor cats can be affected, those that are more likely to suffer are cats
confined to houses and units with little access to vegetation. This is because lily plants
brought into the home present a novel feature for house-confined cats. Young, curious kittens
are especially likely to investigate such plants.
Cats also seem to be unique in their susceptibility to the toxin in lilies. Dogs can eat large
quantities of the plants and only develop mild gastroenteritis while rats and rabbits show no
effect at all.
What effects do lilies have?
Cats affected by lily intoxication will initially show gastritis which manifests as vomiting, a
lack of interest in food and lethargy. These initial signs appear within two hours of ingestion
and disappear after 12 hours, and then the cats may improve briefly before the condition
progresses to serious acute renal failure within 24 to 72 hours.
Cats at this time will show a variety of effects ranging from increased thirst to the production
of large amounts or urine or, alternatively, to the cessation of all urine production. Affected
cats are likely to be dehydrated and they will appear dull and inactive. This is certainly a serious condition because death occurred in all affected cats in cases from 1989 to 1990 when this condition was first reported. In six later cases, three died of renal failure despite expert management. Of those that survived, all had permanent kidney damage. If lily intoxication affects your cat, the quicker you seek treatment, the better your cat’s chances of survival.
What should I do if my cat is affected?
If you see your cat chewing a lily plant or if your cat develops sudden-onset vomiting then
get to your veterinarian quickly, especially if your cat has access to lily plants. Be sure you
tell your veterinarian that you have lily plants present, so that he or she can determine if that
is a possible cause of any disease your cat is showing.
If your veterinarian suspects that lily intoxication caused your cat’s illness, he or she is likely
to give medications to make your cat vomit so that any remaining plant material in your cat’s
stomach is removed. Your vet is then likely to place your cat onto a drip to support its
circulation and to flush toxins from the kidneys. Your veterinarian may choose to flush your
cat’s stomach to remove any remaining plant material and may give other medications by
mouth or stomach-tube to inactivate any toxins.
Dr Braddock concludes by saying that cats should never have access to plants of the lily
If you have a house-confined cat, you should not select Lilies as indoor plants and
homeowners who have lilies in their gardens need to be cautious to ensure their cats will not
chew on the plants.
Other dangers in the home include Toilet lids being left up as a kitten can drown in the toilet
bowl, best keep the toilet door shut as well unless you want to come home to loo paper all
over the house, dishwashers, front loading washing machines and clothes dryers, fridges and
freezers as well as recliner chairs and sofas. Buckets left with water in them, sinks with water
left in them. Please always make sure that your kitten has not climbed inside your washing
machine, fridge or freezer. The crawl space under the dishwasher when the door is open is a
huge danger as they can be in there with their little head hanging over the kick plate and
when you shut the door you would snap it’s little neck. Recliners can also trap a kitten and
squash it between the mechanism. I have heard of a kitten climbing into a front loader and
going to sleep in the pile of clothes and then when more clothes were added and the door shut
the kitten consequently drowned. Make sure that the toilet lid is always down and keep the
door shut as kittens do love to play with toilet rolls and you don’t want it strewn all over your
Please always make sure your kitten is safe from any of the common dangers in your home.
OTHER PLANTS TO WATCH FOR:
OTHER PLANTS TO WATCH FOR:
Amaryllis Bird of Paradise Annum Buttercup Azaleas Cacti (physical spines) Boston Ivy Calla Lilly Christmas Rose Chrysanthemum Clematis Common/Cherry Laurel Caladium Creeping Charlie Creeping Fig Crown of Thorns Crocus Daphne Daffodil Delphinium Dumb Cane Emerald Duke Easter Lily Elephant Ears English and Glacier Ivy Foxglove Heartleaf Holly Hyacinth Hydrangea;Impatiens;Iris Ivy (Hedera) Jade Tree Jerusalem Cherry Larkspur Lily of the Valley Majesty;Marble Queen; Mistletoe Morning Glory Nephthytis;Parlour Ivy; Philodendron Poinsettia Potos;Pot Mum;Oleander Rhododendron Red Princess;Saddleleaf; Schefflera;Snowdrop;Spider Mum Sprengeri Fern Sweet pea;Tulip;Umbrella Plant;Weeping Fig;Wisteria;Yew