A dear reader wrote to me this week with a story about how her feline friend became seriously ill from eating a lily that was in a flower arrangement. You have specifically asked that I educate others about these potential dangers in our pets’ environment. Fortunately, her story ended well, but only after her cat spent several days in the intensive care unit of a pet emergency clinic.

I have had the honor and privilege of sharing my life and home with cats and dogs for over four decades. I know the stress (and expense) that can happen when one of our four-legged friends gets sick.

There are many plants and flowers that are toxic to cats. According to the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, many lilies are highly toxic to cats. In fact, “if a cat eats a lily, treatment should begin within 24 hours to avoid serious kidney damage.” vetmed.tamu.edu

Dieffenbachia, also known as spotted dumbbell, is another common poisonous indoor plant. The sago palm, also known as cycads, is very toxic, with its seeds containing the most toxins. Oleander, tulips, azaleas, rhododendrons, and tangerines are a few others.

The ASPCA has compiled a list of plants that are toxic and non-toxic to cats, dogs, and even horses. You can print this list or search it: aspca.org.

The Cornell Health Center for Cats shares that eating a small piece of some plants, such as poinsettia, can make your cat sick, and eating a large amount can be fatal. They also share that lilies are particularly toxic to cats and can cause life-threatening kidney failure if ingested in small amounts. vet.cornell.edu

Symptoms of poisoning in cats are vomiting and loose intestines. The animal may also become “depressed or show agitation.” It is recommended that you take your pet to an animal emergency clinic as soon as possible. vetmed.tamu.edu

Since the list of plants that are toxic to cats is so extensive, here’s how we do it at my house. All plants are hung from the ceiling or kept in rooms where pets are not allowed. One time, one of my kittens took a flying leap from a nearby window sill and got stuck to the bottom of a hanging bowl. This container now has hard plastic around the bottom. Things we do to our pets!

Also, if you are lucky enough to receive a bouquet, it will also be placed in one of the pet-free areas. After a quick search online, it appears that some florists have pet-safe arrangements. I think this is an excellent idea.

Ariana Kelly Rawlski, M.S., Horticulturist, is the Director of Bringing People and Plants Together, an organization dedicated to bringing horticultural education and therapy to the community. For more information: PeopleAndPlantsTogether@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook.

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