Last week, my husband bought what turned out to be the most expensive of bouquet of flowers ever. £185 to be exact. And they could have potentially cost us the life of our precious Honey.
We learnt a BIG lesson:
Cats + Lilies = Potentially FATAL
Being a typical indoor cat, Honey is very curious (verging on mischievous) so when I put the bunch of mixed flowers on the dining table (which she never jumps up onto) she immediately investigated the new smells. I told her off, she promptly jumped down and scampered away, and I thought she'd lost interest. There was a single lily stem in amongst the other flowers, and at the back of my mind I knew that they weren't good for cats. I didn't realise they were FATAL, I just thought they were something she shouldn't go near. So I cut the pollen stems, thinking this would make them safer. I was wrong.
The following day, I was working on the PC and I could hear a rustling sound and I suddenly thought it must be Honey playing with the flowers. I dashed into the room and Honey bolted off the table. She knew she was in trouble. She jumped up onto the bed and started nuzzling me and purring, as if to say sorry, and I noticed a yellow stain of pollen around her chin and a little smudge on the corner of her mouth. (Even though I cut the pollen stems, some of the pollen had dropped onto the petals.) Without thinking, I cleaned it off with a wet cloth, then immediately searched online. Something didn't feel right. And everything I read confirmed my fears. Lilies are the most dangerous plants to cats. I cut out the remaining yellow stain in her fur to prevent her cleaning it off, I called the vet, and she was admitted within the hour.
Without medical treatment, a cat that eats ANY PART of a lily will definitely become ill. It may not happen straight away, but within a few days they will suffer renal failure as the toxin damages the kidneys. The most important thing to do it to take the cat to the vet as soon as possible for IV fluids. Some cats may vomit the lily up and appear well for a few days, then become gravely ill. It only takes a tiny amount of the plant to cause irreparable damage.
We didn't know if she had actually eaten any of the pollen, or bitten into the leaves or petals, but the vet treated her as if she had ingested some. Lily poisoning is so serious, that you just cannot take any risks with treatment. She spent three days on an intravenous drip administering fluids in an attempt to flush the toxin out of her system. When Honey is at the vets, she turns into a wild cat and bites, scratches and growls (she's a typical tortoiseshell, apparently). She had to be sedated each time she ripped the drip out of her arm and it needed to be reinserted, and also when they did blood tests. She refused to eat and didn't go to the toilet for two days. The vet didn't know if Honey was just upset about being in unfamiliar surroundings, or if she was ill. On the third day, they did a blood test which thankfully revealed full kidney function. We collected her and within five minutes of being at home, she ate some food, went to the toilet and drank some water. She was so pleased to be home, and we were relieved all her bodily functions were in working order. This morning, Honey had a follow-up blood test (involving another sedation...) which showed normal kidney function. The vet said that after 8 days it is highly unlikely that a cat will become ill, but it is not unheard of. We need to keep a close eye on her, but going by her huge appetite, it looks like she will be fine. Perhaps she never ate any of the lily. We will never know.
What strikes me, is that everyone I've spoken to since our ordeal seems clueless that lilies are poisonous to cats. People respond with, "I've had cats all my life, and we always have lilies in the house, and they've never been ill." Well, aren't they lucky, but that doesn't mean that lilies are safe. The veterinary nurse said that lots of cats are admitted with lily poisoning, especially indoor cats and kittens. Many cats that suddenly suffer from renal failure may actually be suffering from lily poisoning, but the cause is never found.
The question I have is why isn't this more widely known?! Why don't bouquets of lilies have a label pointing out the danger to cats? Is it because supermarkets and florists are worried they will lose sales? Cats are the most popular pets in the UK, and the majority of mixed bouquets contain lilies, so why don't people know about this?
When I have some time on my hands (in September), I plan to write a letter to all the chains of supermarkets and florists in the UK asking them to put a simple warning on lilies. A cat face with a red line through would be sufficient. Something that will make people think twice. From what I've read online, people in the USA are more aware of lily poisoning than in the UK. That really needs to change.
Anyway, after the events of the last week, I think I've gone off flowers for life!