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Lilium toxicity in cats

Who doesn’t love liliums? These handsome blooms are often our first choice when sending a bunch of flowers or adding some colour and fragrance to our house and garden, but cats and liliums can be a fatal combination.

Plants from the Liliaceae family are known to cause severe toxicity and kidney failure in cats – all the common liliums (Asiatic, Oriental, Tiger and Christmas lilies) and various day lilies (Hemerocallis) are considered highly poisonous to felines and it seems cats are the only domestic species susceptible to lilium toxicity. Some experts maintain the most toxic are the species with the most beautiful fragrance.

ALL parts of the plant are toxic – the flowers, leaves, stems, roots and pollen. And just a 5 cent-sized piece of leaf or petal can be fatal. Cats that live inside are possibly at greatest risk – they are curious creatures and a vase full of liliums is a tempting target.


Initially the affected cat will start to vomit, exhibit depression and refuse to eat. These early symptoms often start within a few hours of ingestion of the plant material and progressively become more severe. Within 1 to 3 days the cat will become critically ill and develop acute renal failure, with symptoms including dehydration, low to nil urine production, bad breath, sometimes with mouth ulcers. The kidneys will be enlarged and painful on palpation.

Without treatment, the cat will become progressively ill and die within 3 to 7 days.


Ring us immediately if you even suspect your cat has nibbled lilies. Rapid, early veterinary intervention is critical if renal failure is to be avoided and recovery achieved. Blood and urine tests will help confirm the diagnosis.

There is no antidote – the responsible toxins and the mechanism of poisoning are yet to be identified. Treatment includes aggressive intravenous fluid therapy and other intensive supportive treatment aimed at normalising kidney function and correcting dehydration and urine output.

If presented immediately, plant material can be removed from the stomach and mouth. If more time has elapsed since the plants have been eaten, intensive therapy as above is required to try to combat renal failure.