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Are Calla Lilies Poisonous to Cats? How to Keep Your Cat Safe (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Lindsay Bisset

Calla lily plants produce beautiful flowers and are highly recognizable for their popular, trumpet-like shape. While the white calla lily is one of the most well-known and popular varieties, these flowers have a wide array of color options.  As a cat owner, you are probably aware that some plants can be toxic to our beloved pets and want to ensure you are taking the proper precautions regarding plants in the home.

And thus stand the question, are calla lilies poisonous to cats? Yes, calla lilies are poisonous to cats. Luckily, they are not true lilies, which can result in kidney failure, but they are still toxic to cats and dogs. Let’s take a closer look into why they are poisonous and how to keep our cuddly companions safe.

The Calla Lily

The ever-so-popular Call Lily goes by several popular names including the Arum lily, Florist’s calla, Pig lily, Garden calla, Richardia aethiopica, Richardia africana, Trumpet lily, and White arum. Thankfully for cats, calla lilies are not true lilies and are from the Araceae family and not the Lilium family.

Species of the Liluim are true lilies that can cause kidney failure and even death in pets. Calla lilies contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which are irritating to the mouth, skin, and gastrointestinal tract and will cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. If your cat has ingested part of a calla lily, it is still recommended to contact your veterinarian for further guidance.

Calla Lily Poisoning in Cats

Calla Lilies contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that work as a natural defense system for the plant. This defense is common in the Araceae family, in which the calla lily belongs. If your cat were to chew or bite into the calla lily, the plant will release the crystal, causing them to penetrate tissue and cause irritation of the mouth and the gastrointestinal system. On rare occasions, swelling of the upper airway can occur, causing difficulty breathing.

While it is unlikely your cat will consume a large amount of the calla lily plant, calla lily poisoning is a serious condition that can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. You should seek immediate veterinary care if your cat has ingested any portion of this plant. This not only goes for cats but any other pets in the household.

sick grey cat
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

Symptoms of Calla Lily Poisoning

Symptoms of calla lily poisoning in your cat typically occur immediately after ingestion and can be incredibly painful. Some symptoms of calla lily poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  •  Excessive drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Shaking of head or other signs of pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ulcerations of the mouth
  • Intense oral and throat pain
  • Swelling of the throat/airway (rare, severe cases)

Diagnosis and Treatment of Calla Lily Poisoning in Cats

Diagnosis of calla lily poisoning must be done by your veterinarian. You will be asked a series of questions about your cat’s overall health, the situation that occurred, and the symptoms you have observed. The veterinarian will complete a very thorough physical examination and may run some tests to properly diagnose the issue.

Treatment will depend on the severity of the poisoning and the reaction your cat is experiencing. Your veterinarian will need to address the poisoning itself and the symptoms your cat is experiencing. The staff will give you thorough information on the treatment process and provide you with instructions on how to care for your cat once they come home.

sick cat cuddled in blanket
Image Credit: Germanova Antonina, Shutterstock

Dangers of Plants in the Lilium Family

One of the most toxic household plants for cats is the common lily. While calla lilies are not true lilies, those within the Lilium family are extremely dangerous to pets. Eating as little as two or three leaves from these flowers can result in organ failure and can even prove fatal if left untreated.

Some of the most common lilies among households in the United States are Easter lilies, Tiger lilies, Japanese show lilies, Rubrum lilies, and Daylilies. Ingestion of any plant within the lily family will result in poisoning but the Lilium and Hemerocallis genera lilies are the most dangerous.

Signs of Lilium Poisoning

  • Decreased activity
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting (begins within 0 to 12 hours after ingestion)
  • Increased urination
  • Dehydration

Veterinary intervention is required if your cat has ingested a plant from the Lilium family. Time is of the essence, though symptoms can begin slowly (within 12 hours) but will increase significantly over time. Signs of kidney damage will be present within 12 to 24 hours and kidney and organ failure will take place anywhere between 24 and 72 hours after ingestion.

If treatment is delayed, irreversible kidney damage can occur, and death will occur within 4 to 7 days after ingestion. Therefore, contacting a veterinarian immediately is the best course of action.

Tips for Keeping Your Cats (and Plants) Safe

tabby cat with house plant
Image credit: Voyagerix, Shutterstock

Whether it be one reason or another, cats and plants have trouble coexisting. Being a cat lover that is also a plant enthusiast will undoubtedly pose its challenges. On a positive note, some helpful tips can make your life a bit easier. Let’s have a look!

Designate a Plant Room

Providing you have enough space in your home, you could consider turning a spare room into a designated plant room. This would allow you to keep all the plants you wish while having a space that is off limits to your cats and can offer you the peace and security of knowing that your cat does not have access to destroy your plants and they will also not be exposed to any poisonous plant life.

The downside to a plant room is that a lot of people love to use plants as décor throughout the home. If that is the case, you could opt to decorate the rest of your home with varieties that are non-toxic and not as attractive to a cat’s curiosity.

Keep Plants Out of Reach

There are a lot of creative ways to display plants in the home nowadays. For instance, they make pots that hang on the wall and even have displays that can hang from the ceiling. If your cat does not have a surface it can climb on to reach, it will be unable to gain access to the plant.

Utilize a Spray Bottle

Cats are not easy pets to train. In fact, cats like to do what they want and do not have much concern for consequences. Some cats, however, respond very well to being sprayed with water from a spray bottle when they are being naughty.

You can give them a quick spray each time they approach the plant and begin to nibble, chew, or claw it. Unfortunately, you can’t always be on guard to spray your cat each time it goes near a plant, but this trick can be helpful to some cats that are very responsive to this technique.

Try Catgrass or Catnip

A lot of plant lovers can entice their cat’s curiosity by growing cat grass or catnip. Both are very easy to find, low in price, and fairly easy to grow. Cat grass and catnip are entirely different, but both are extremely safe for cats. You can even get creative and make these varieties part of your décor.

cat eating grass
Image Credit: Piqsels

Trip Your Plants Regularly

Keeping your plants trimmed regularly to keep them from becoming too long and overgrown will help prevent your cat from being stimulated by the long leaves that look too good not to bat around and chew.

Set Aside Playtime

If your cat is being regularly mentally and physically stimulated by play, it will be less likely to terrorize unsuspecting house plants. Set aside time each day to bring out the laser pointer, the fake mice, or any other cat toys that will help them burn energy and keep them entertained.

Opt for Fake Plants

If your houseplants are being used as décor only, there are very realistic fake plants on the market that can add a natural, beautiful look to your home while being completely fake and non-toxic for your cat.

You may still have to keep certain cats away from these plants, as some mischievous individuals will not be deterred completely by the fake plant. Having chewed leaves and pieces of the plant ripped off won’t do your home décor much justice, especially when it won’t grow back. You also do not want them ingesting a lot of fake plant material either.

Avoid Toxic Plants

The best way to ensure your cat’s safety within the home is to avoid bringing any toxic varieties into the home. While different plants have varying degrees of toxicity and have different effects on pets, it’s best to opt for non-toxic houseplants if there are pets inside the home.

Conclusion

Various plants are toxic and potentially fatal to cats. Calla lilies are from the Araceae family, so they are not as toxic as true lilies from the Lilium family but are still poisonous to cats and can cause some serious pain and discomfort upon ingestion. Check with your veterinarian before bringing any new plants into the home and make sure you reach out to them immediately if your cats ingest a plant you know to have toxic effects.


Featured Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

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