Is Lily of the Valley Toxic to Cats?

Snapdragons: suitable for kitty consumption. Lily of the valley, not so much.
Snapdragons: suitable for kitty consumption. Lily of the valley, not so much. (Image: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

If you caught Tabby munching on some of your landscaping, it's time to do some cat-proofing outside. One of the early spring bloomers, lily of the valley, is toxic to cats. If Tabby must go outside, it's best to swap this bloomer out with a safe alternative.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley has long been a popular flower. It's dainty and pretty with a strong scent and makes a great ground cover. It's easy to grow and it makes a lovely bouquet, as the world found out when Prince William married Kate Middleton. Unfortunately, if you have a cat that enjoys the outdoors, this is a plant to steer clear of because it's poisonous to cats and dogs.

Pretty Poison

The ASPCA and the Pet Poison Helpline both classify lily of the valley as toxic to cats. The toxicity can range from moderate to severe, depending on how much Tabby ingests. Though it has "lily" in its name, lily of the valley is different from other lilies, such as day lilies and Easter lilies, which can cause acute kidney failure if ingested. Though lily of the valley won't cause kidney failure, it's poisonous in its own right and requires aggressive treatment.

Cardenolides: Bad for the Heart

Lily of the valley has chemicals that are very toxic to the heart, called cardenolides. The entire plant, including the stems, leaves, flowers and roots, are poisonous if ingested. If you thought they'd make a nice cut flower to enjoy in the house, keep in mind that even the water the stems sit in can be trouble for a cat; the cardenolides will seep into the vase water. If Tabby sampled lily of the valley, she may experience vomiting, diarrhea, irregular or slow heart rate or seizures. Severe cases of poisoning from this flower affect the heart and can be fatal.

From Valley to Vet

If you caught Tabby tasting lily of the valley, call your vet immediately. The sooner she gets treatment the better her prognosis. If possible, bring part of the plant to the vet with you to help with diagnosis. The vet may attempt to induce vomiting and administer charcoal to absorb toxins remaining in her stomach. Intravenous fluids may be required to prevent dehydration.

Try These

If Tabby likes to spend time outside, forget about growing lily of the valley in the garden. A wide variety of blooms are cat-friendly landscaping options. Consider grape hyacinths, many ferns, hens-and-chicks, hollyhocks, snapdragons, nasturtiums, petunias, zinnias and bachelor buttons. The ASPCA website hosts a comprehensive list of safe and toxic plants. Refer to it when planning your garden.

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