Are Lilies Toxic to My Cat? Toxic Plants to Cats · The Wildest

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Are Lilies Toxic to Cats?

Keep those Easter lilies far away from your kitty

by Dr. Amy Fox, DVM
26 March 2024
Cute Bengal cat sniffs lilly flowers.
Berliner Art / Shutterstock

This Easter, you might be planning on picking up some lilies to decorate your home for those Easter egg hunts and family dinners. But before you go placing them in easy-to-reach spots around the house, keep in mind that lilies are super-toxic for cats. They’re a gorgeous springtime classic, but the popular plants can cause life-threatening illness when kitties even ingest the smallest amount. (A quick note: there are other plants that we often call lilies that are not true lilies. While these plants do not cause the same complications, they are also not good for cats to chew on and can cause serious health problems.)

Cats are unique in their sensitivity to certain plants, so it’s especially important to familiarise yourself with which plants are safe to keep around cats and which are toxic. If in doubt, keep any potentially toxic plants out of reach of your cats, or better yet, out of your home entirely. Learn more about the dangers of lilies to cats below.  

Why are lilies dangerous to cats?

True lilies are very dangerous to cats because they can cause sudden kidney failure that can be fatal. True lilies belong to the genus Lilium and include plants known as the tiger lily, Casa Blanca lily, stargazer lily, Oriental lily hybrids, Japanese lily, Easter lily, rubrum lily, red lily and the wood lily. Additionally, plants of the genus Hemorocallis can also cause kidney failure in cats, which includes the day lily.

These plants are usually grown from bulbs, have an appealing odour and may be found in flower bouquets as well as in indoor and outdoor planters. The plants are highly toxic to cats, which means they only need to chew on a small amount of the plant, including the leaves and/or flowers, in order to get sick.

In some cases, cats have even been reported to get sick from inhaling the pollen from a lily, or drinking water from a vase containing lilies, so it is extremely toxic even in the smallest amounts. A compound in the plant thought to be a type of glycoalkaloid is most likely responsible for its toxicity, although it is still under investigation. The result is severe damage and death to certain cells in the body, mainly in the kidneys, but sometimes also in the pancreas, liver and brain. 

What should I do if my cat has eaten a lily?

If you see your kitty eating a lily, take it away immediately and head straight to the vet. These toxicity cases have the best outcomes when cats receive aggressive treatment as soon as possible. This is not a situation to wait and see how your cat reacts. You should also contact the Animal PoisonLine straight away (£35–45 per call). If you know the exact kind of lily your cat ingested, be sure to keep that information handy to share with the hotline and your vet.

If you aren’t sure, try to bring a piece of the plant or a photo with you so that you can get help identifying the plant. In cases where you do not directly observe your cat eating the lily but find the plant was chewed on, knocked over or they’re are already showing signs of illness, these are all reasons to head to the vet right away. Many of the signs of lily toxicity can overlap with other causes of illness in cats, so any time they are acting sick, it’s important to get them to the vet. If you have lilies in your home, it is always worth mentioning to your vet. 

Diagnosing lily toxicity in cats

Lily toxicity causes a fairly specific set of signs in cats, so it may be considered for any cat who develops sudden kidney failure. If you know you have lilies in your home or observed your cat chewing on plants, that is very important information to mention to your vet as well.

The diagnosis of kidney failure is based on blood tests that will show elevations in certain kidney-specific values and is often confirmed using ultrasound to visualise the kidneys, and a urinalysis to analyse the composition of the urine. These tests can diagnose kidney failure, but they cannot test specifically for toxins in lilies to confirm if that was the cause. Other toxins, infections and congenital conditions can also cause kidney failure, so it’s very useful to know if a cat was exposed to a specific toxin, such as a plant. 

Symptoms of lily toxicity in cats

Lily toxicity causes kidney failure and may also cause damage to the pancreas and brain. Cats with these conditions may show signs including: 


There is no antidote for lily toxicity, but your cat will need aggressive supportive care immediately to give them the best chance for survival. Initial treatment may involve decontamination of the digestive tract, either by inducing vomiting or giving them charcoal by mouth.

Treatment for kidney failure includes intravenous fluids and medications to ease symptoms, including anti-nausea medications and pain medications. For cats who also show neurological signs, such as tremors or seizures, anticonvulsant medications may also be needed. These cats need to be hospitalised – usually for multiple days – to provide intensive care, ongoing monitoring and to support their recovery. In these cases, early treatment makes a huge difference in their prognosis, as cats who are treated early before they have signs of toxicity have the best chance for a full recovery. 

How to prevent plant poisoning

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to lilies. The safest option is to keep the most toxic plants, such as true lilies, out of your home entirely. If your cat has no access to them, accidents can’t happen. If there are lilies in the home that you can’t get rid of completely, be sure to cat-proof your space as much as you possibly can and keep lilies and any other toxic plants out of reach.

This means that ideally, these plants should be in a sealed-off room that your cat cannot access. Unfortunately, lilies seem to have an irresistible smell to cats, and they have been known to go to great lengths to seek them out in a home. We all know cats can be incredible acrobats, too, so don’t assume that your lily is out of reach just because it’s on a high shelf or narrow window sill.

If there is no way to fully cat-proof your house, you can also try to cat-proof a single room and keep your cat in that room when unsupervised. Be sure to make that room as enriching as possible for them so they don’t get bored; use scratching posts, toys, catnip, vertical climbing surfaces and food puzzles to keep them entertained. 

Are all parts of lilies toxic to cats?

Yes, lilies are highly toxic – from their stems to their leaves to their flowers – and even their pollen. And yes, there have been cases of cats getting very sick just from sniffing or licking the pollen from a lily or even drinking water from a vase that had lilies in it. There really is no safe part of a lily plant. Whatsoever.

How do I stop my cat from eating lilies?

The best way to prevent a cat from eating lilies is to keep them out of your home. Because these are so toxic, it’s a big risk to have them around. All it takes is a lick or a bite, and your cat can get very sick. If you are not able to remove them all from your home, be sure to provide a safe space for them to go where they will not be able to get near the lilies.

The bottom line: are lilies poisonous for my cat? 

Unfortunately, despite being beautiful and aromatic, lilies can be deadly for cats. This is one case in which it just doesn’t pay to take the risk. There are plenty of other plants that can coexist with your cat safely, but lilies are a definite no. Every cat parent should be aware of this risk because it can cause such serious harm, and it’s important to be mindful of any plants that come into your home, whether they are part of a bouquet or a houseplant that you just couldn’t resist buying.

If in doubt, keep all flowers and plants away from your cat until you have been able to confirm their identity and find out if they are toxic to cats. There are some great apps that can help you identify plants so even those mystery plants at the grocery store can be properly researched now. And of course, if they ever get into a plant, always play it safe and contact your vet and the Animal PoisonLine ASAP to discuss the best course of treatment since early intervention can save lives. 

Other plants that are safe for cats:

Other plants that are dangerous for cats: 

Frequently asked questions

What happens if cats eat lilies? 

True lilies are highly toxic and can cause fatal kidney failure. Any cat with a lily exposure needs immediate veterinary attention.

How much lily is toxic to cats?

Lilies are toxic even in very small quantities. Any exposure should be considered toxic. 

Are lilies poisonous to cats?

Yes, true lilies are highly toxic to cats. Other plants that we call lilies can be toxic as well.

Can cats eat lilies? 

No, lilies are highly toxic to cats. They should not even lick or smell them.

Are lilies poisonous to cats if they smell them?

It is possible for cats to get sick just from smelling the pollen on a lily plant, so they should never come into contact with lilies at all. 


Amy Fox

Dr. Amy Fox, DVM

Amy Fox, DVM is a small animal veterinarian in New York City. A lifelong animal lover, Dr. Fox studied biology in college and then worked as a veterinary nurse before pursuing veterinary school at Cornell University.  She has worked in many different settings including shelter medicine, emergency medicine, general practice, and animal cruelty and forensics. She is especially interested in nutrition, preventative medicine and care for senior pets. Dr. Fox also enjoys writing about veterinary medicine and teaching. In her free time she loves to cook, garden, and go for long runs. 

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