A viral Facebook post has alerted numerous cat owners to the dangers of a common household flower, which can prove fatal to furry friends.
Lindsey Warnock, from the US, shared the traumatic ordeal after her cat Willow pawed some lilies in Warnock's office. Although the pet didn't consume the flower, she was covered in its dusty pollen. Warnock laughed and didn't think too much about it, until "something in [her] head told her to Google it".
It was then she discovered that lilies - their stem, petals, leaves, stamen and pollen - are incredibly toxic to cats.
"I freaked out," Warnock wrote. "[I] threw her in the shower (that wasn't fun) and immediately took her up to Blue Pearl Emergency & Specialty Hospital. Due to COVID, they came and took her from my car and after her exam the ER doctor called me.
"She said her prognosis was very poor because they found the pollen around her mouth and on her tongue. She even said, 'In my experience I've never seen a cat survive lily poisoning. Most owners only realise there's an issue when the cat is sick and by that point it's just too late'."
Luckily for Warnock and Willow, the quick-thinking cat mum acted within the nick of time. After two days at the clinic, activated charcoal and an "aggressive" treatment of medications and fluid therapy, Willow was given the all-clear.
According to Warnock, the vets are confident the cat's organs haven't suffered any long-term damage.
"I can't tell you the intense guilt I felt, and still feel, for buying those stupid flowers. I felt like a murderer, terrible fur mom, terrible person. I've had cats my entire life and have never heard of lily poisoning. The vet's response to that was, 'Most people only find out the hard way'," Warnock wrote.
"Please share this with your friends. I would hate to see anyone go through this.
"No. More. Flowers. Ever."
Although Willow survived her brush with the deadly flower, not all cats are so lucky.
According to PetVet, a veterinary clinic in Auckland's Herne Bay and Ponsonby, ingesting any part of a lily can cause renal failure in the animals.
The clinic says the key to successful treatment is early recognition of possible ingestion and aggressive treatment. However, prevention should always be the first step.
Lilies, which are commonly found in household floral arrangements as well as outdoors in domestic gardens, can be attractive to cats, particularly inquisitive kittens. They may bat, play with or chew the plants, behaviour that could easily go unnoticed by owners, particularly if the cat is alone in the home.
According to the clinic, the toxic substance in lilies that injures the kidneys is unclear, but all parts of the flower - the petals, stamen, stem, leaves and roots - are poisonous. The lethal dose is also unknown, however it's believed cats can be poisoned by ingesting just a tiny amount of the plant's material.
PetVet says the first signs are vomiting, depression and loss of appetite, usually within two hours of ingestion. It's likely that acute renal failure will develop within 24 to 72 hours. At this point, the cat will become severely dehydrated. If left untreated, the pet will die within three to seven days.
"Lily toxicity should always be considered in any case of acute renal failure in cats," says the vet's website.
"Ingestion of small amounts of plants or flowers of the Liliaceae family can cause severe, irreversible kidney failure and death in cats within three to seven days of exposure. Cats should therefore never have access to flowers or plants of this family."
Warnock's post has since gone viral, amassing more than 34,000 likes, 154,000 shares and 21,000 comments at the time of writing. The general consensus of the comments is that the majority of cat owners had no idea lily toxicity existed.