What parts of lilies are toxic to cats?

All of the lily is the answer to the question. I have spent a reasonable amount of time researching an answer to the question in the title, in terms of the specific chemical, without success I have to confess. I have searched the Internet using Google Scholar looking for studies on this topic. The studies that I found are quite old (e.g. 2009) and they tell me that they don't know the specific chemical that causes such toxicity to cats. But they do tell me that all parts of lilies i.e. the whole plant-petals, stamen, leaves, and pollen are toxic.

What part of lilies are toxic to cats? All of it.
What part of lilies are toxic to cats? All of it. Image: MikeB

Not all lilies are toxic, funnily enough. You can click on this link if you wish to find out which lilies are not toxic. However, as a cat owner you should not have any lilies in the home at any time in my honest opinion. This is because they are lethally toxic. They are just too dangerous and only a small amount of pollen from a stamen can harm or perhaps kill a cat.

There are many hybrids of the lily which is another confusing point. And as little as two leaves or part of a single flower can kill a cat. The onset of poisoning is rapid which suggests a rapid absorption of the toxin concerned. It is disappointing to realise that the scientists don't know what this toxin is. If you know better than me then please leave a comment and tell me exactly what this chemical is.

Click for the top 10 cat poisons in the USA and lilies are in the number 1 spot.

The experts say that the renal tubular epithelium appears to be the target of the toxin. A water-soluble fraction of the lily is nephrotoxic. The symptoms of lily intoxication include depression, anorexia, vomiting and salivation. Polyuria renal failure leads to dehydration and anuric renal failure and death results.

Specifically, it is called nephrotoxicity which means toxicity to the kidneys in my understanding of the word.


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