Last updated April 1st, 2022
I was at work when I received a call from my sister, sobbing at the other end. Her cat, Misty, had died overnight.
“Do you have lilies in the house?” I asked.
“Yes I do, why?”
It started with a thoughtful gesture of love. Her husband likes to surprise her with her favorite bouquet of lilies. Unbeknownst to him, lilies are highly toxic to our beloved felines.
They’re so beautiful with their trumpet-like petals and filaments beckoning you to behold them and take a closer look. And your cat, being the curious beast that he is, is sure to take more than just a closer look. All parts of the lily are toxic, even the pollen and the water in the vase. Your cat does not have to ingest anything, just brushing against any part of the flower can collect pollen on his fur which your cat may ingest while grooming. Even the tiniest amount of ingested matter will cause acute kidney failure and eventually death, if not aggressively treated within the first few hours of ingestion. National Poison Prevention Month has passed, but awareness is key to prevent the dreaded visit to the emergency vet with your cat’s life hanging on the line. There are thousands of newbie cat owners out there and many do not know of the risks, so we hope you share this post for all to see.
Within minutes to hours of ingestion, your cat may display any of these common symptoms:
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the most deadly of lilies is the ‘true lily’ belonging to the genus Lilium. If veterinary care is not sought within 36 to 48 hours, kidney failure may develop and chances of your cat’s survival are greatly reduced.
Some examples of these deadly beauties include:
Day lilies (Hemerocallis species, although not belonging to the true lily family, is included to err on the side of caution)
So, what are the non-toxic alternatives to lilies?
Lilies are a much-loved Spring choice of bouquet in many households. But if you share your life with a cat, keep these beauties out! There are some beautiful and equally showy plants and flowers that would get your cat’s stamp of safety approval.
6 Non-toxic alternatives to lilies
1. The Blushing Bromeliad
The Bromeliad is a tropical flowering plant that can bring color and a taste of the exotic into your kitchen or living room. Completely non-toxic to cats, the bromeliad is easy to care for and can be found in the greenhouse section of your local garden center. The most popular variety I come across is the blushing bromeliad featured above.
Interesting fun fact: The pineapple is a bromeliad and is the only bromeliad to produce an edible fruit. How cool is that?
2. Easter Cactus
The Easter Cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertnerii) is not as showy as the bromeliad, but these little modest lovelies can be a nice filler for a Spring bouquet. They are widely available at garden centers and come ready-made in decorative pots. Jimmy Fancy Feet finds them interesting, and good to know that if this known muncher decides to take a chomp, he’ll be okay. The worst would be a regurgitated green clump on the kitchen floor!
3. The Orchid
Yes! You, your cats and your lovely orchid bouquets can co-exist in safety. Orchids, (Phalaenopsis) or ‘Moth Orchids’ are easy to grow indoors and you will be rewarded with blooms for many months to come. Grazing kitties will not be harmed by this plant but because the petals are so delicate I would keep them on an elevated plant stand. When the flowers fall don’t discard, just cut down the stem, care for it as usual and wait for possible reblooms.
4. Gerbera Daisy
There is a simple elegance to the attention-grabbing daisy with its cheery face and brightly colored blooms and foliage. The Gerbera daisy (Gerbera Jamesonii) immediately brightens a room and nothing says ‘happy’ and ‘fresh’ better than these ‘hello sunshine’ extroverts. This plant presents a little bit of a challenge growing indoors. It is usually given as a gift bouquet around Spring and will last for one blooming season. You can rest assured that your cats will be safe if they decide to go say “hello” to little Miss Daisy.
These succulents are popping up more often in wedding bouquets and table centerpieces. They have a unique rustic and organic feel to them and the bonus is that they are perfectly safe for cats. I have to say in my experience cats rarely bother snacking on plants that have thicker foliage such as succulents. Some cats are just persistent and overzealous nibblers, but most prefer grass-like foliage, anyway.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that the much-loved rose is non-toxic to cats? Roses are not just for Valentine’s Day! You can safely welcome these all-time favorites into your home for any special occasion. To make it ultra safe for kitty paws and kiddy fingers, you can remove the thorny bits before arranging in a vase.
In a previous post on how to grow a cat salad bar, I provide some tips on how to keep your cats from eating your houseplants.
Misty never made it. She was a young cat, a much-beloved member of the family. My brother-in-law’s sweet gestures of surprise bouquets for my sister is still a thing. He just stays far away from lilies!
So many people do not know the dangers of lilies and are not presented with safer plant choices, so I hope you share this with a friend. We couldn’t save Misty, but it might just save another cat’s life.
For more on cat-friendly plants, check out my other post on how to grow a cat-safe catio garden for your cats
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