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Easter lilies bring surprising — and deadly — dangers to cats

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CHICAGO — Popular this time of year, the Easter lily can be seen throughout households, helping to brighten up the mood and welcome in spring.

But the plant also carries with it a danger to some pets.

According to Pet Poison Helpline, the Easter lily can potentially kill cats.

The website characterizes Easter lilies —  as well as tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Japanese Show, rubrum, stargazer, red, Western and wood lilies as “highly toxic to cats.”

“Even small ingestions (such as 2-3 petals or leaves) – even the pollen or water from the vase – can result in severe, acute kidney failure,” the Web site reads.

It’s a danger WGN news producer Pam Grimes knows all too well — but one she did not see coming.

Grimes’ cat, Phoebe, recently ate the leaves of an Easter lily and was poisoned.

Grimes said it all began Saturday, when she had a few friends over to her home. Some guests brought her the Easter lily as a gift. “Certainly, they didn’t know” the plants were poisonous, she said. Grimes said it was an honest mistake anyone could have made. “If you’re going to bring over a plant to someone’s house, for Christmas it’s a poinsettia; for Easter, it’s an Easter lily,” she said. Grimes even took a picture of her cat with the plant, as she thought it would make a cute photo.


But Phoebe then went 24 hours without eating, and by Monday morning had thrown up a few times.

Though at first she thought it may just be a fur ball, Grimes said she later went on Google to see what else could be wrong, thinking to herself, “What’s new in the house” — but the only thing that came to mind was the lily.

“I’ve had cats over 20 years and have never heard about Easter lilies being poisonous,” Grimes said.

Then on Monday night Phoebe hid in the basement. “I honestly thought she had crawled into a hole to die,” Grimes said.

Grimes said by Tuesday morning, when she brought Phoebe to the vet, her cat had stage four kidney failure. Phoebe, only 2 years old, did not survive.

“[Phoebe] likes to chew on plants, but this time she happened to chew on the wrong one,” Grimes said.

Grimes first shared the news publicly on Facebook Tuesday, saying “Easter warning. Some lillies [sic] can kill. I snapped this picture thinking it was so cute my Phoebe loves flowers. She apparently chewed on the leaves and was poisoned. When I got her to the vet this morning she was in stage 4 kidney failure, and we had to say good-bye.”

Now, Grimes wants to prevent other cat owners from a similar loss.

Grimes said Wednesday that her veterinarian told her he’d been writing about about the dangers of Easter lilies for more than 20 years, but while some warnings stick, she and her veterinarian feel like the dangers of these lilies are lesser known to the masses.

“I can’t tell you how many people have told me they had no idea Easter lilies are poisonous,” said Grimes. She said she noticed her initial Facebook post had been shared and commented on a number of times, which was her ultimate goal: to get the word out.


Phoebe with Grimes’ other cat, Phin. “He’s lost without his sister,” Grimes said.

Pet Poison Hotline says if a cat has ingested this type of lily, the sooner its owner can bring it to the veterinarian, the better.

The Web site lists the following symptoms as signs a cat has potentially been poisoned:

  • Inappetence
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Halitosis
  • Dehydration
  • Inappropriate urination or thirst
  • Seizures
  • Death

by Thomas Owen, WGN.

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  • jessica

    A coworker bought me a bouquet of flowers for my birthday…. and it had lilies. I kept it in the bathroom because my cat eats everything green, and I was concerned about toxicity.

    My hubby getting ready for work left the door open and the cat snuck in and ate a good chunk of leaf.

    20 min after he took off my kitty puked and I noticed a green leaf, and immediately looked online…. my heart sank, and in moments I whisked my cat to a 24hr vet clinic.

    After three days and my poor kitty being forced to puke nothing happened…. (credited to cat puking and me immediately taking him in) except for a $1,200-1,500 vet bill and an edict that NO plants in the house that have not been checked for toxicity.

    Worst birthday present ever…. and this was after spending a good chunk of money fostering a cat that had breast cancer for a person in need (lost home)…. and getting her pet the cancer surgery and up to date vaccinations the kitty desperately needed.

    No good deed goes unpunished. :)

    Needless to say we are still recovering financially… guess what my v-day present was?….. roses?


  • jessica

    We called jewel-osco where the bouquet was purchased and told them they should have a generic sign for all plants that warned buyers of a plants possible toxicity to pets…. we got a lot of face… not enough follow through…. “we will take it into consideration” was all we got, I am still very upset.

    Too many people get in this predicament…. and it upsets me that we were dismissed…. I was told by the co worker, had she had known she wouldn’t of bought them…. and I’d be better off money wise too.