Why are lilies poisonous to cats, and how dangerous are they?

Why are lilies poisonous to cats, and how dangerous are they?

Most cat owners know that lilies are poisonous to cats, although it can be easy to forget this over time, and naturally not every cat owner is aware; and unfortunately, some find this out the hard way.

Lilies are of course a very popular flower, and one that is widely offered in the UK in the form of plants in pots and also fresh cut flowers, and bouquets of lilies and that include lilies are widely available to buy from any florist or supermarket.

Compounded with this, there are a wide range of different types of lilies; and many people have a picture in their head of a specific variant or two, and would not even recognise many of the others as plants from the lily family if they saw them.

This means that it is all too easy for lilies and cats to cross paths, and even for cat owners who know that lilies are toxic to cats, other people who might buy them or take them flowers might not be aware of that fact, and inadvertently introduce them into the home.

However, as is sometimes the case when it comes to things that are strongly spoken of in terms or potential dangers and that a lot of effort is put into in terms of raising awareness, many cat owners will have questions about the true extent of the risk, and what makes lilies dangerous to cats in the first place.

With this in mind, this article will discuss what part of the lily is poisonous to cats, what makes lilies toxic to cats, and how dangerous lilies are really when it comes to the health of your feline friend. Read on to learn more.

What type of lilies are poisonous to cats?

There are almost 100 common and well-known types of lilies and possibly more, and quite literally all of them are dangerous to cats. You might have read some advice articles stating that specific named types of lilies aren’t dangerous to cats – but read this again and look up the plants in question! You’ll see that the lilies that aren’t toxic to cats are not taxonomically true lilies at all, but plants from different families that simply share some traits with lilies in terms of appearance.

What part of the lily is poisonous to cats?

Some plants that are toxic to cats only carry the danger in a specific part of the plant, like the bulb or the pollen; but the whole of the lily plant, including the pollen, roots, leaves, flowers and everything else are toxic to cats.

That said, the pollen is what poses the greatest threat, as lilies produce huge amounts of it and it drops everywhere (even if you can’t see it) which increases the chances of a cat accidentally coming into contact with it.

What makes lilies poisonous to cats?

So what exactly is it that makes lilies poisonous to cats? Well, the exact toxin in the lily or why it affects cats isn’t something that is fully understood, but the effect it has on the body of the cat is.

Ingestion of lily can result in kidney failure in cats, and often acutely; and just a very tiny amount is required.

How dangerous are lilies to cats?

The threat posed to cats by lilies really shouldn’t be minimised; lilies are incredibly dangerous to cats, and it is a variety of factors that makes this the case.

The first is that just a very small amount of pollen or another part of the plant can be fatal to a cat; such as if a cat brushed past a lily and got a small amount of pollen on their fur, or even walked below a mantelpiece where lilies are displayed and got some on their paws. When they then lick and groom themselves, ingestion of that small amount of pollen can result in fatal kidney failure.

The fact lilies are quite common and inadvertently brought into homes with cats often doesn’t help either, and they are also very pollen-heavy plants that produce a lot of it, which is shed and dropped in large quantities too, increasing the risk of contact with a cat.

Not all cases of lily ingestion in cats are fatal, but a large proportion are. Even if the cat in question throws up almost immediately after ingesting part of a lily, they may still have absorbed enough to make them very ill, or even to prove terminal.

If you know or suspect that your cat has come into contact with lilies, even if you’re not sure they ingested any, contact your vet immediately. If your cat has lily pollen on them, the first thing you should do is try to stop them licking this off, such as by putting a buster collar on them if you have one to hand, or immediately washing and wiping it off as thoroughly as possible, before taking the cat to the vet to be checked over.

Any suspected or confirmed contact with lilies, or any signs that your cat may be becoming sick and lilies are suspected, warrant an emergency trip to your vet.

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