For the Love of Kitties, Leave the Lilies Alone

By Joan Eve Quinn, HEALS Program Director

Who’s not thrilled to see happy flowers popping up their cheerful heads after a long, cold winter?  In particular, lovely-looking lilies start appearing everywhere at this time of year, both indoors and out, especially as the spring holidays approach. The Easter lily, an alluring trumpet-shaped flower with waxy white petals and a distinctive scent, is a perennial favorite. 

Cats and lilies don’t mix!

But these pretty plants can be fatal to felines. These flowers don’t come with warning labels–but maybe they should!  Who knows what might pique the interest of our feline friends? Kitties that are bored, curious or attracted to a different texture or unusual scent may be tempted to taste the new lily plant addition to the home.

Beauty can be dangerous

Easter lilies can cause acute kidney failure in cats, which is very serious! Some other lily culprits include:

  • Tiger Lily
  • Rubrum Lily
  • Stargazer Lily
  • Red or Wood Lily
  • Asiatic Lily
  • Japanese Show Lily
  • Day Lilies

Any Lilium or Hemerocallis species should be considered potentially poisonous to cats. Calla Lilies and Peace Lilies, which are common houseplants, can cause mouth and GI tract irritation. Lilies of the Valley, omnipresent outdoors in springtime, can cause heart arrhythmias.

A few other popular spring flowers that are dangerous to cats include daffodils, hyacinths, azaleas, and tulips.

Dog owners should be wary as well. “Dogs can have some gastrointestinal upset from ingesting lilies as well as some other flowers, but it won’t result in any fatal complications,” advises Dr. Jason Berg, board-certified veterinary neurologist/internist and HEALS Chairman of the Board.

Signs of lily toxicity in cats

Signs of poisoning develop quickly. Initial signs can appear within two hours of ingestion and include vomiting, refusal to eat, and lethargy.    

Initial symptoms may subside, but don’t be fooled. Cats will become symptomatic again within 24-96 hours as kidney failure develops. These later signs can include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Oral ulcers and uremic breath
  • Hypothermia
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Slowed heart rate

Life-saving veterinary treatment

The onset of kidney failure can be prevented with aggressive veterinary treatment within six hours of ingestion. Treatment includes inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal products. This therapy is followed up with intravenous fluids for at least two days. If medical treatment is delayed for longer than 18 hours, kidney failure will develop. If not treated, death will occur in as little as three to seven days. Lily toxicity is to be taken very seriously!

The safest bet

It’s best not to purchase lilies of any type indoors or outdoors if you own a cat. But even if you don’t purchase lilies, keep all flower arrangements out of the reach of curious kitties. If your me-ew likes to chew, try some fresh cat grass or catnip plants, which are available at most pet stores.   

If you think your cat may have gotten into a lily plant, seek emergency veterinary medical attention immediately!  Know where your nearest 24/7 veterinary clinic is located and keep the phone number handy. For further information on this subject, you can contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Would you like to donate to help save animals? HEALS is one of the best, most effective animal charities to donate to. Your gift provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help paying for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email us at

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