Are Lilies (Lilium) Toxic to Cats?

Last Updated on January 2, 2021 by Julia Wilson

Are lilies toxic to cats?

Lilies (Lilium spp.) are toxic to cats. The unknown toxic principle causes acute kidney failure in cats. All parts of the plant are toxic including the leaves, flowers, pollen and vase water.

What are lilies?

What are lilies?

  • Family: Liliaceae
  • Botanical name: Lilium spp.
  • Common names: Lily
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: All parts of the plant are toxic to cats
  • Severity: Extremely toxic
  • Toxic principle: Unknown

Also known as ‘true lilies‘, lilies are bulbous perennials with trumpet-shaped flowers native to Europe, North America and Asia. Lilium is made up of 100 species of lilies divided into a number of divisions which include Oriental, Asiatic, Trumpet, Longiflorum, Martagon, Candidum and American.

Clinical signs

Lily toxicosis occurs in two stages, the first stage relates to gastrointestinal upset, followed by kidney failure.

First stage

  • Vomiting which may contain parts of the ingested plant in the vomit
  • Depression
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Increased urination

Second stage

Kidney failure occurs 12-72 hours post-ingestion.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bad breath
  • Once the kidneys have become damaged, urination will be absent
  • Increased or decreased thirst
  • Weakness
  • Seizures

First aid

Immediate veterinary care is critical for cats who have ingested lilies. Call the veterinarian to let them know you are on your way so that they can prepare. Exposure to any part of a lily no matter how little was consumed requires aggressive veterinary treatment.

Treatment

There is no antidote for lily ingestion, treatment is aimed at preventing further absorption as well as managing clinical signs.

  • If ingestion was recent, the veterinarian will induce vomiting to remove any remaining plant material from the gastrointestinal tract and administer activated charcoal to prevent further absorption.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy to maintain urine production for 48-72 hours. The purpose of fluid diuresis is to speed up the removal of toxins in the blood (uremic poisoning) and treat dehydration.
  • Once the kidneys have stopped working dialysis will be necessary to remove waste products from the blood.
  • Supportive care during treatment will include anti-nausea medications, and a low protein, low mineral diet.
  • Close monitoring will include regular blood pressure checks and urine output.

Prognosis

The prognosis is good for cats who receive fluid diuresis before anuria (absent urination) develops which typically occurs 12-18 hours post-ingestion. Once kidney failure occurs, the prognosis is grave. This highlights the importance of immediate medical intervention for any cat who has had exposure to lilies.

Prevention

Do not have lilies in your home or garden if you share a home with cats. It is not worth the risk.

Related: Flowers non-toxic to cats



Julia Wilson is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. She enjoys photography, gardening and running in her spare time. Full author bio Contact Julia