May Flowers Can Be Toxic to Cats

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One of the things I most look forward to this time of year, when spring really begins to take hold, are all of the beautiful flowers. I love flowers. Pretty much any kind of flowers. I love the incredible range of colors. I love the fact that all of Mother Nature’s colors never seem to clash with each other like man-made colors can do. I love, love, love the fragrances. What I don’t love is that some of my most favorite flowers can be deadly to something I love even more, my cats.

Many of you may know the flowers of which I speak. For those who don’t, I am talking about lilies and unfortunately, most all kinds of lilies. Even the most beautifully colored and fragrant lilies are toxic to cats. And, when I say toxic, I mean really, really toxic. Most poisons must be ingested to cause a problem but that is not the case with lilies. Lilies are so toxic to cats that they do not even need to swallow any of the plant to be poisoned. All a cat needs to do is chew on a part of the lily, flower, leaves, stems or even just the pollen and that can be all that is needed to cause fatal kidney failure within a very short period of time. Yikes! If your cat friend ever chews on a lily, get them to the vet immediately. Cats that receive emergency treatment within 18 hours of exposure, usually survive.

Martha Norwalk

Martha Norwalk with her Golden Retriever, Robbie

Because of that, I do not bring lilies into my house, ever. Some cats will try to chew on any kind of plant that comes into their home. My cats are no exception but since my cats are indoor only with free access to their cat run, I have planted some in my yard, far away from the areas I walk my cats on their leashes, however.

I do love to have flowers in my house whenever possible. Lilies, of course, are not the only toxic flower or plant to animals, they are just the worst. Since animals are my passion and first love, I have learned that I must pay attention so I am wise about what flowers and/or plants I bring into the house or plant in my garden.

When I was selling my house a few years ago, I ran into a problem. My real estate agent wanted me to have fresh flowers in several rooms of the house for showing purposes all the time. We went to the Internet and researched  toxic flowers. I was delighted to discover a flower that up until then, I was unfamiliar with, astromeria.

Astromeria is a lily-like flower. They look a lot like daylilies but they are not toxic. They come in many colors and can be found year round at most grocery stores. They are inexpensive and the best thing for me is that they last at least two and usually three weeks. They are pretty much the only flowers that I buy for inside my house these days. Also, when I order flowers to be sent as a gift to someone, if they have cats, I always request no lilies in the bouquet.

Flowers and plants can be toxic to other animals as well, like our dog friends. Smaller animals, like rabbits, ferrets, hamsters and other rodents are even more vulnerable just because of their size and that makes it really important for their owners to be careful about toxins. If you own horses, they too can be poisoned by plants in their environment so it is good to know what to look out for in their pasture.

I always recommend people do some research  about toxic plants and flowers before adding an animal friend to the family. If you have houseplants, make sure they are not poisonous to the kind of animal you want. Many common houseplants are toxic to pets so do not assume your plants are safe. It is also possible that you have gotten away with having toxic plants because your present animal friends don’t mess with them. Maybe they are too old to care or, as individuals, they are simply not attracted to plants. Please do not assume this will be the case with new, especially young, animal additions to your household. Prevent and avoid is the best way to go here. It is always better, in my opinion, to be safe rather than sorry, especially when it comes to our animal friends.

There is lots of good information on the Internet about flowers and plants. I find the ASPCA website to have the most complete and detailed information. On their site you can find lists of toxic plants as well as photos. I find that very helpful because I don’t always recognize a plant or flower by its name. I found the photographs particularly helpful when I was checking out my pastures when I had horses. They have lists and photos for dogs, cats and horses.

Here are the web addresses: www.noliliesforcats.com or www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants. You can also just go to www.aspca.org and in the drop down Petcare section, click on Poison Control Center. When you are there you can check out the top 10 poisons for animals.

The ASPCA also runs a 24-hour emergency poison control hotline for animals. That phone number is 1-888-426-4435. Write that number down and post it someplace handy like on the refrigerator in case of an emergency. If you or your vet needs emergency information regarding poisoning, this is the number to call. You may need a credit card to pay a $65 consultation fee.

Now, all that being said, happy springtime and remember to take time to enjoy and smell the flowers!

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About Author

Martha Norwalk is an animal behavior therapist and host of Martha Norwalk’s Animal World, Sunday mornings, from 9 a.m. to noon on Alternative Talk AM 1150. She can be reached at Martha’s Canine, Feline and All Creature Counseling at (360) 217-7258 or www.marthanorwalk.com. For a free, no obligation telephone evaluation or to make an appointment for Martha to work with you and your animal friend, give her a call. 

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