Lilies – pretty but dangerous to cats!
Update July 2022: It has come to our attention that pollen-free lilies are being marketed as a ‘safe’ option for cat owners. All parts of the lily are toxic, not just the pollen. A pollen-free lily will not be safe for cats and the advice for cat owners to avoid lilies remains the same.
The lily is an attractive and fragrant flower, and features in many a bouquet and flower arrangement. However, many people are unaware of the danger they pose to cats. Lilies cause severe kidney damage in cats, but not other species such as dogs. The mechanism whereby this pretty flower is potentially fatal to cats is not fully understood.
Which type of lily causes a problem?
Lilies, specifically all species of Lilium (true lily) and Hemerocallis (day lily) are poisonous to cats. It is important to be aware that many plants have lily in their name such as lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), peace lily (Spathiphyllum species) and calla or arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica). These plants may have different toxic effects but it is specifically Lilium (figure 1) and Hemerocallis (figure 2) that are discussed here (Table 1).
Table 1: Lilies that are toxic to cats
|Scientific name||Common names|
|Hemerocallis species||Day lily|
|Lilium x asiatica||Asiatic lily|
|Lilium x asiatica americana|
|Lilium candidum||Madonna lily|
|Lilium hydridum||Japanese showy lily|
|Lilium lancifolium (Lilium tigrinum)||Tiger lily|
|Lilium longiforum||Easter lily|
|Lilium orientalis||Stargazer lily; oriental lily|
|Lilium regale||Royal lily|
|Lilium rubrum||Rubrum lily|
|Lilium umbellatum||Western or wood lily|
Help us spread the word
In the UK, lily intoxication has been identified as amongst the top five serious intoxications of cats, and indeed it currently generates the greatest number of feline toxicological enquiries.
We want vets and cat owners to lobby for the widespread adoption of warning labels and posters at all locations where lilies are sold, to stop cats falling victim to this preventable condition.
To this end, the International Society of Feline Medicine (the veterinary division of International Cat Care) and the Centre for Veterinary Education, University of Sydney have collaborated to produce artwork that can be displayed at the point of sale – in supermarkets, florists and other outlets.
Please take the opportunity to download the poster and warning label which can be displayed in veterinary clinics and pet shops and distributed to any outlets you have near to you that sells lilies.
Lethal lilies poster
Lilies warning sticker