Lilies: Deadly Beauty

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

You may wonder why I’ve gone for such a dramatic-sounding title, especially as lilies don’t pose us a threat. But if you own a cat (or it owns you), you’ll probably know what my reason is. Lilies, especially their beautiful, golden-yellow pollen, are a deadly threat to cats.

If a cat gets lily pollen on its fur, perhaps while brushing past the flowers, and then licks it off, the cat can suffer severe kidney damage which can be fatal. (The other parts of the lily plant are also highly toxic, but less likely to be ingested by a cat…unless it has a habit of nibbling plants.)

Lilium regale – the regal lily – is tall and beautiful.

When I had my first two cats, I had no idea about the damage lilies could do them and I did actually have some lilies growing in a large tub. They were Lilium regale, which is tall, so the cats didn’t get close to the flowers. Even so, the thought of what might have happened if some of the pollen had fallen on them makes me shudder!

Other members of the lily family are equally toxic to cats. Daylilies (Hemerocallis), Lily of the Valley (Convallaria) and Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum) can all cause damage that needs to be treated by a vet immediately to try to save the cat’s life.

We have two cats here, so I don’t grow any lilies in the garden now. But if I see them growing in gardens I visit, I love to photograph them. The lilies you see here were growing in Fullers Mill Gardens. (Just a few of their lovely collection.)

Leopard Lily (Lilium pardalinum)

16 thoughts on “Lilies: Deadly Beauty

  1. I’ve never heard such a thing! Now that my Dixie Rose is gone, it’s not an issue. here. I’m going to pass your post on to a friend who has a cat and who adores lilies, though. Her cat’s old enough that it obviously hasn’t been a problem in the past, but it’s still good to be aware of the issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also had no idea about the lily pollen’s toxicity for cats, Ann. I wish vets would give out a sheet listing things animals should never, ever eat. We fed our dog grapes for years (which he loved) before we learned that we shouldn’t have done so. Even though we took him for regular exams, it was never mentioned. There was no obvious toxicity, but we have wondered if it caused any long-term kidney problems.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A sheet like that would be a brilliant idea – there are quite a lot of things that are toxic to cats, and I should imagine dogs too. It’s horrible for an owner to realise that they’ve been doing something wrong, so advice at an early stage (e.g. first checkup or inoculations) would be really helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder how animals know not to eat toxic plants? I imagine that it may be partly the smell and maybe the first taste is unpleasant enough to put the animal off? (So much easier for humans who can pass on the knowledge!)


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