The latest Toxin Tail warns about the dangers of lillies for cats

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Spring has sprung, and so have those beautiful white and multi-colored lilies. While these annual favorites between Easter and Mother’s Day brighten up gardens, rooms and faces, they contain toxins that can be deadly to pets, especially cats.

Exposure to any part of the plant, including leaves, flowers, pollen—or even the water from the vase—may result in acute kidney failure in cats.

In 2020, the highest spike of calls to the Pet Poison Helpline regarding lily exposure was on Mother’s Day, with Easter and Memorial Day being tied for second.

One lily-loving cat named Emmy is the focus of this month’s Toxin Tails case from the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline.

“My wife loves lilies, so I bought her a bouquet for Valentine’s Day,” said Robert Milliner, who has a Domestic Shorthair cat named Emmy.

In the middle of the night, Emmy  nibbled on the lilies and coated her face in pollen. After a little online investigation, her humans realized that was not good and so they calledd the Pet Poison Helpline and took Emmy to the veterinarian.

“She looked like Simba from that birth scene in the Lion King, with that orange color on her face,” said owner Robert Milliner. She may look adorable, but the lily pollen on Emmy’s face was highly toxic.

“There are many plants called lilies, and unfortunately the type of lily Emmy encountered—a ‘true lily’ of the Lilium genus—can cause acute renal (kidney) failure in cats,” explained Dr. Ahna Brutlag, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline.

Since it had been 9-10 hours since ingestion, inducing vomiting would not be beneficial.

“Instead, our first recommendations were to administer a dose of activated charcoal to bind to the plant’s toxins and bathe to remove the pollen from her fur and face,” Brutlag related. “We then advised hospitalization on intravenous fluids for 48 hours along with ongoing monitoring of her kidney values, other blood work and urine output.”

Fortunately, two days later, Emmy healthy. And with a clean face.

“Cats need quick access to veterinary care with this type of lily exposure,” Dr. Brutlag added. “If they receive proper care within 18 hours of ingestion, their chances of survival are extremely high. If they do not receive proper care, or care is delayed, the chances of survival drop significantly, with some studies reporting a 100 percent fatality rate.”

What are lillies?

Many kinds of plants are found or sold with “lily” as part of their name. A few grow wild in ditches and wooded areas. Some are sold as bulbs in garden shops. Many are used in floral arrangements.

The most dangerous and potentially fatal lilies for cats are “true lilies” or those in the genus Lilium. Common examples include Oriental hybrid lilies such Star Gazer and Casa Blanca lilies.

Other examples include potted Easter lilies or garden plants such as tiger lilies. Additionally, daylilies (Hemerocallis), although not a true lily, may also cause kidney failure in cats.

For cats, ingestions are medical emergencies requiring immediate veterinary care. Early decontamination, aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, renal function tests, and supportive care greatly improve the cat’s prognosis.

What about dogs?

Dogs may experience minor gastrointestinal upset after ingestion of these lilies but do not appear to develop kidney damage.

About Pet Poison Helpline

Pet Poison Helpline created Toxin Tails to educate the veterinary community and pet lovers on the many types of poisoning dangers facing pets, both in and out of the home. All the pets highlighted in Toxin Tails have been successfully treated for the poisoning and fully recovered.

Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control center based in Minneapolis, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species.

Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $65 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the poison case. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680.

Additional information can be found online at

Featured image: Orange lilly from


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