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Are Lily's really poisonous to my cat? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Melanie   

Lily intoxication in cats - http://www.wnca.com.au/Lilies%20toxic%20Malik.htm <http://www.wnca.com.au/Lilies%20toxic%20Malik.htm




Common name Scientific name

Tiger lily Lilium Lancifolium syn. (Lilium Tigrinum)

Rubrum lily Lilium Speciosum

Asian lily Lilium Asiatica

Stargazer lily Lilium Orientalis

Easter lily Lilium Longiflorum

Any part of the plant is poisonous & only a tiny amount (less than one leaf) needs to be eaten to cause poisoning.

What are the symptoms of lily poisoning in cats?

The first signs of lily poisoning occur 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion & include vomiting, depression & loss of appetite.

Vomiting usually subsides a few hours after exposure but this doesn't mean your cat is making a recovery. As the toxin starts to affect the kidneys depression, excessive thirst (polydipsia) & lethargy will occur. Acute renal failure usually occurs between 1 - 3 days after ingestion, and death will follow within 5 days.

How is lily poisoning diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will require information on your cat's history, including any possible exposure to poisons it may have ingested. He will perform a complete physical examination of your cat.

He will want to run several tests to determine the condition of the kidneys, which may include;

* Blood samples will be taken for testing. Elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine are both indicative of renal failure.

* Urinalysis will be able to provide additional information on the extent of kidney damage & urine-concentrating ability.

* Kidney biopsy.

How is lily poisoning treated?

Prompt medical treatment is absolutely vital, the sooner your cat sees a vet, the better. Even with veterinary attention there is no guarantee that your cat will survive, but the chances greatly decrease if treatment isn't commenced within 6 hours of exposure.

Treatment is generally supportive & includes intravenous fluid therapy

Jody Braddock, Joanna White and Richard Malik

Faculty of Veterinary Science and the Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, New South Wales, 2006



Although lilies are flowers commonly used in floral arrangements, and cats often have access to them, most cat owners and florists, and indeed many veterinarians are unaware of lily intoxication as a potential cause of kidney (renal) failure in cats.


Photo exhibit (A): A Tiger lily. Very beautiful. Absolutely deadly for cats.

This is unfortunate as lilies are becoming especially popular as a gift in the Sydney area, and the flowers that are sold are exceedingly toxic to cats. The key to successful treatment of these cats is early recognition of possible ingestion, and aggressive management of the ensuing renal failure. In fact, lily intoxication should be considered as a diagnostic possibility for any cat, regardless of age, suffering kidney failure of sudden onset. More importantly, prevention is much better than attempted cure, so it is in the interests of cat owners and cat lovers to make the danger of lily ingestion WELL KNOWN in the wider community.

Indoor cats, and especially kittens, may be drawn to floral arrangements, as they are a novel feature in an otherwise very familiar environment that often lacks other forms of vegetation. In the course of investigating the flowers, the cats may play with and sometimes chew parts of the plant. This could easily go unnoticed by owners, or may occur while the cat is alone at home. Similarly, cats with access to lilies growing outdoors in domestic gardens may not be observed to contact the plant, so careful questioning regarding the presence of the plant or flowers is always warranted when a vet is investigating kidney failure in cats, especially when it develops suddenly.


The species of lily that cause acute renal failure in cats are shown in the blue dialogue box (Table 1).

The toxic substance in lilies that injures the kidneys has not been identified, but all parts of the lily are poisonous
flowers, stamen, stem, leaves and roots. The toxic dose is unknown, but thought to be reached by ingestion of, or mouthing, very small amounts of material.



Photo exhibit (B): It only took this much lily to be ingested to cause sudden kidney failure in the kitten shown below Cats seem to be unique amongst domestic pets in their susceptibility to this intoxication, possibly due to differences in their metabolism. For the same sort of reason, cats also can be easily poisoned by human medications such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin, and these too are lethal for cats in doses that would be safe for humans. Interestingly, dogs that consume large amounts of the plant develop only mild gastrointestinal signs, while rats and rabbits show no signs of toxicity at all.


Signs of lily poisoning

The first signs of toxicity are vomiting, depression and loss of appetite. The onset is usually within 2 hours, and may subside by 12 hours. Although an affected cat is likely to remain depressed, the patient may appear to improve, briefly (with or without symptomatic treatment) as the gastrointestinal signs abate. It is likely, however, that acute renal failure will develop within 24 to 72 hour at which time the cat will become critically ill. At this time the patient may drink much more than usual, or become extremely dehydrated. Your vet might feel painful, enlarged kidneys on physical examination at this stage. If untreated, cats die in 3 to 7 days.


Diagnosis and treatment

Your vet can diagnose the presence of acute renal failure using blood tests, urine tests, an ultrasound examination and possibly a needle biopsy of the kidneys. Although there is no specific test that can identify lily intoxication as the cause with certainty, there are characteristic laboratory findings that make the diagnosis likely if supported by evidence of lily ingestion (see photograph!!). The treatment for lily intoxication is intensive and expensive, typically involving intravenous fluid therapy and hospitalization for several days. Currently, this would represent a cost in excess of $1000 to most owners, and even with the most diligent therapy, a success outcome is not assured. One very lucky kitten that was diagnosed very early and treated aggressively by the authors is shown in the accompanying photograph. Most cats are not so lucky!



Lily toxicity should always be considered in any case of acute renal failure in cats. Ingestion of small amounts of plants or flowers of the Liliaceae family can cause severe, irreversible kidney failure and death in cats within 3 to 7 days of exposure. Cats should therefore never have access to flowers or plants of this family.

In an attempt to drive this point home, the Cat Protection Society is developing a laminated poster which we would like to see displayed prominently in every Sydney florist warning potential customers of this risks such a gift may pose to unsuspecting cats.


Further reading:

Hall JO. Nephrotoxicity of Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) when ingested by the cat. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, San Diego, May 28
31, 1992

Hall JO. Lily nephrotoxicity. In: August JR, ed. Consultations in feline internal medicine 4. Philapdelphia: WB Saunders Co, 2001;308-310

Langston CE. Acute renal failure caused by lily ingestion in six cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;220:49-52

Volmer PA. Easter lily toxicosis in cats. Vet Med 1999;94:331


Suchi is a registered breeder with the New South Wales Cat Fanciers' Association Incorporated. Lic No 125232.

All information, photographs and graphics on this site are copyrighted 2004 by Catatonia. No warranty is proved for any ommission, inaccuracy or otherwise of any of the data, information or opinions included in this site whatsoever. Independant professional advice is advised, paticularly with concern to medical matters.


Last Updated on Saturday, 12 August 2017 06:06

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