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Lily Poisoning in Cats - Signs & Treatment

We are surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers however a small percentage of these plants / flowers have the possibility to cause impairment to our beloved cats.

Most cats are fussy and very careful about what they ingest, hence poisoning in cats is generally infrequent, however kittens and young cats are extremely inquisitive and are at a higher risk of ingesting harmful plants especially if they reside indoors, don’t have access to cat grass and are bored at home.

Lilies are common house and garden plants nevertheless most of them are poisonous and can be very detrimental to cats.

 Plants from the genus Lilium come in different colours - Credit: C.K.H.

The exact toxin in lilies that is poisonous to cats hasn’t been identified yet. It’s important to note that all members of the Lilium group - including Easter lilies, Asiatic lilies and tiger lilies as well as those from Hemerocallis sp, e.g. day lilies - produce a chemical that is present in ALL parts of the Lily which makes them TOXIC to cats. 

They are extremely poisonous and a cat can suffer fatal kidney failure from just nibbling foliage, licking pollen off its coat or even drinking water from a jug with cut lilies in it.

What are the Signs of Lily Toxicity?

The clinical signs indicative of lily toxicity (renal problems) are: 
  • depression
  • inappetence
  • lethargy
  • repeated vomiting
  • severe diarrhoea
  • skin irritation (redness, swelling, blistering)
  • wobbliness
  • increased drinking
  • decreased or no urination and 
  • sudden collapse.

If owners suspect their cat may have chewed on or ingested lily, they need to seek veterinary care immediately since lilies kill cats and without aggressive treatment, many cats will die!

Regrettably, there is no cure for lily poisoning, but prompt veterinary intervention can improve prognosis. Some poisoned cats recover with minimal therapy while others require costly dialysis to enable the kidneys to repair themselves.

Diagnosis is key! Bringing a chewed-on lily to the vet hospital or pieces of the plant in the vomit will allow for a definitive diagnosis. Since the toxic principle in lilies attacks the kidneys, blood and urine tests will be taken to assess kidney function.

What does the Treatment involve?

Your vet will induce vomiting and give a substance called activated charcoal to bind the poison in the stomach and intestines, nevertheless the most important part of treatment is high volumes of fluids given intravenously (IV) to try and prevent dehydration and the kidneys shutting down. 

While the cat is placed on IV drip, their bladder will be catheterised so that urine output can be monitored. Lack of urine production is a sign that the treatment was unsuccessful.

It may take few days prior to signs of kidney damage to show, but treatments need to be commenced immediately to assist improve the chances of recovery.

Prevention is best - remove all hazardous household plants to prevent unnecessary exposure.  If you live with cats – keep lilies out of your household!

written by Melina Grin, August 2019 for Australian Cat Lover

About the writer

Melina’s love of animals began in childhood, when she would care for sick or stray dogs and cats while dreaming of becoming a Vet. While working in the veterinary field she found a distinct interest and passion in Small Animal Rehabilitation and Animal Behaviour. Melina has many years of experience handling and caring for animals: her own, as well as pet sitting, cat minding, dog walking, nursing and rehabilitating her clients’ beloved companions. 

Melina is currently studying to become a qualified Veterinary Nurse with a view to progressing to Animal Behaviour Therapy. She also gives her time and expertise to several animal rescue events and festivals. Melina’s discovery of holistic natural therapies started several years ago following her own diagnosis of a recurring digestive disorder, which was treated successfully with alternative treatments. Then, when her beloved cats suffered from anxiety, skin, mobility and digestive conditions of their own, natural therapies and bodywork were used in combination with western veterinary medicine to bring them back to full health.

Melina is also the founder of the new Facebook group: Feline Seminars, Workshops, Webinars & Events


George, L. (2015). Keeping cats safe: introduction to toxicololgy. ISFM . Retrieved May 20, 2019
ICatCare. (2017). Cats and poisonous plants. Retrieved May 22, 2019, from International Cat Care:
ICatCare. (2017). Lily toxicity. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from International Cat Care:
Leigh, D. (2018, October 01). Are Lilies Poisonous To Cats? Retrieved May 21, 2019, from Your Vet Online:
PetMD. (2019). Lily Poisoning in Cats. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from PETMD:

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