Cat Lovers Beware – Lilies are Toxic

posted April 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Sarah Freundenthal

This is the story of “Stanley,” a handsome cat in every way.  

I first laid eyes on him four years ago while I was working as a Registered Veterinarian Technician at a local veterinary clinic.  He was an abandoned kitten who needed a home.  He soon became a member of our family which at the time consisted of one dog and two other cats. 

When my husband and I found out that we were pregnant with our first child we were a bit concerned about how the animals would adjust.  Twenty weeks into my pregnancy I found out that I hadcomplications which caused me to be on bed rest.  The days were long and boring but Stanley rose to the challenge of keeping me entertained.  He would bring me toy mice (sometimes in the middle of the night) and want me to play with him.  He was notorious for curling up at my head to help lull me to sleep with his purring.  After seventeen weeks of this, our son was born and the concerns we had with the introduction of him had vanished.  All the animals took to his addition well, especially Stanley.  He loved to curl up with his little infant toes and as my son grew older he accepted everything from tail yanking to hair pulling.  Just recently I caught my son basking with him in the sun.

It was Valentine’s Day and my husband sent me flowers to my work.  They didn’t show up, but were surprisingly delivered to my house that night.  It was a lovely bouquet with some greenery and several types of flowers including just three large tropical looking pink and white lily blossoms.  I try not to keep flowers and plants in the house because the cats like to eat them, so I wasn’t surprised to see a small portion of leaf eaten off of one of the lilies.  To keep the rest of the flowers from being eaten, I moved the bouquet into the garage so I could take it to work with me the next day.

A few hours later Stanley vomited, which didn’t concern me, as I knew that eating foliage of certain types of plants could sometimes cause gastric upset.  What did concern me however, was that Stanley didn’t eat dinner that next night.  By the next day he was very lethargic and stayed in the playroom behind a chair.  He stayed there until I took him to the vet.

After a complete physical exam and blood work diagnostics we found that his kidney blood values and electrolytes were extremely elevated.   He was treated with intravenous fluids and after he received a small bag it was determined that his kidneys were not producing urine.  I knew the prognosis for complete kidney shut down was not in his favor.  It was decided to take him into emergency exploratory abdominal surgery to be sure just what was going on. 

The exploratory revealed that his kidneys were unsalvageable.  A normal kidney is a rich red brown color and his were completely white!  His bladder was totally empty, indicating that his kidneys were producing no urine.   At that point I had to make the decision that no pet owner wants to make.  It was time to let him go peacefully, euthanasia was the only humane answer.  He had already gone through enough and there was no way he would survive without functioning kidneys. 

When I got home that night my son, who is now two, said to me, “Stanley sick.”  I had to put on a smile and tell him that Stanley wasn’t sick anymore, that he had gone to Heaven.

It is generally well known that Easter lilies are toxic. A quick look through the toxicology book shows that all species of lilies should be considered toxic and deadly to cats.  Even the smallest amount of ingestion, of any part of the plant, leaves, stems or flower, can be enough to kill.  Only a few hours after consuming the plant, the cat may start to vomit and without immediate veterinary intervention and treatment the cat may go into kidney failure and die.

If your cat does happen to eat any of the lily plant, seek veterinary care immediately.  As of now, there have been no reported cases of this in dogs, the only concern man’s best friend has is an upset tummy.

Stanley was not only a pet, but a member of our family.  He helped me through my difficult pregnancy and was a best friend to my son.  We were blessed to have him with us, even if it was only for four short years.  There is not a day that will go by that I won’t think of his death and how it could have been prevented.  If I know that his story can save the fate of at least one cat, then my family and I can finally be at peace.

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