Lilies and cats – a deadly duo

Over Christmas 2017, Waiuku residents Russell Lambert and his partner nearly lost their one and a half year old ragdoll cat, Sophie to something called lily toxicity.

They had purchased the lilies from a Franklin supermarket but had no idea they were introducing something to their home that would prove toxic to their cat.

According to Dr Nikki Frost from Franklin Vets, lily toxicity is a potentially life-threatening condition in cats that is caused by an unknown toxin found in true lilies, (Lilium) and Hemerocallis species. These include Easter lilies, Tiger lilies, Rubrum lilies, Hybrid lilies, Stargazer lilies and Day lilies. What many cat owners don’t know is that if a cat swallows any part of these plants, even the water in the vase containing the lilies, they can become critically ill. Dr Frost said that the symptoms of lily toxicity initially include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and a lack of appetite, then, after 12 hours, the cat may appear to get a little better before becoming seriously ill as they go into kidney failure.

Fortunately for Sophie, her owners noticed the pollen dusting her fur and contacted their local vet, who told them to bring Sophie in immediately. Besides the worry and concern caused by Sophie’s illness, Russell and Vonnie then had to contend with a hefty $1070 bill for Sophie’s stay at the vet and her after hour emergency treatment.

Sophie was fortunate to survive her ordeal and her owners are now much wiser about the potential danger of lilies. Which begs the question, should lilies, whether cut flowers or potted, be labelled with a warning about their danger to cats? According to the International Society of Feline Medicine, it is recommended that lilies are labelled as toxic to cats. The UK has started labelling lilies with warnings. Should NZ be doing the same?

While the supermarket declined to comment, they did send Russell a $200 goodwill voucher. Should lilies be labelled with warnings for cat owners? Send us your thoughts. Email:

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