Spring flowers dangerous for cats

by M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM

With the spring holidays of Easter, Passover, and Mother’s Day, lilies will be present in many homes. This summer, daylilies will grace many gardens. They are favorite flowers to many of us: their color, fragrance, and beauty are hard to beat. However, what you may not know is lilies are deadly to cats. This is especially pertinent as a recent American Veterinary Medical Association survey shows Vermont tops in the nation for cat ownership with almost 50 percent of households having at least one cat.

All parts of the lily, including pollen are toxic to cats and cause sudden severe kidney failure and death, if not treated promptly. Even cats with seemingly minor exposure such as biting a leaf or getting pollen on his or her whiskers or hair coat can be fatally poisoned. We don’t know why cats are attracted to lilies, but cats of all ages are affected. It is especially tragic when young kittens, who like to chew on everything, are affected.

Signs of lily toxicity occur within 24-72 hours of exposure and include vomiting, depression, anorexia, and dehydration. Cats treated within 18 hours of exposure generally have a good prognosis. Even if exposure is not certain, the cat should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.  Animal Poison control reports that the number of cases of feline toxicities by lilies increases each year. For this reason, a new national media campaign to increase awareness of this issue has been created. For more information, go to www.noliliesforcats.com.

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