Beware: Lily Pollen Kills Cats

We know that a lot of plants can harm cats but I hadn’t realised that the pollen of lilies can blind, paralyze and kill cats. This is shocking because pollen can become dislodged from the plant and float around a room whereas in most cases of a plant hurting a cat it will be due to the cat eating the plant. We know cats do eat a bit of vegetation, usually grass.

Lily Pollen Kills Cats
Lily Pollen Kills Cats. Photo by wlcutler
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With lily pollen floating around a room it can come to rest on a cat and the cat can lick it off her fur and ingest it, or simply inhale it direct from the air.

This frightening information has come forward from a UK story in which a woman, Sonia Barnett, who kept four cats was given a Valentine’s Day bouquet of lilies.

Within a matter of days three of her cats were dead. The fourth managed to survive with kidney damage; an awful experience for all concerned including the boyfriend who gave her a lovely bouquet of lilies.

Beware of lilies if you keep a cat. They are more dangerous than I first thought.

Note: It may be the case that certain cats are more susceptible to lily pollen poisoning than other cats. It may not be the case that lily pollen harms or kills all cats. Nonetheless this is a plant that is totally out of bounds for a cat household.

9 thoughts on “Beware: Lily Pollen Kills Cats”

  1. I knew this about Lillies so if I get any (I don’t buy them myself) as soon as one opens I cut the stamen out very carefully and put it in the bin without getting pollen anywhere. A lot of things are labelled ‘dangerous to pets’ I think the same should be on the wrapping of Lillies.

    • A lot of things are labelled ‘dangerous to pets’ I think the same should be on the wrapping of Lillies.

      That is a damn good idea, Leah, on both counts (cutting out the stamens and the warning). I am sure most people are unaware of the critical danger of lily pollen to cats.

  2. I knew lilies and the red stuff that comes off them were toxic to cats but hadn’t actually thought about the pollen floating around in the air, something else to worry about! In my work at a funeral home I come into contact with a lot of lilies in amongst floral tributes delivered for funerals and have always been most careful when handling them not to get pollen on my uniform and bring it home with me. I’d literally die myself if I caused either of our boys to be ill or worse through this. If you google all the plants that are poisonous to cats you end up in a state of panic and wonder how they ever survive to a ripe old age!!

  3. Another similar warning of toxicity. Snow globes contain anti freeze. And if you didn’t know, they only need a tiny bit of anti freeze to get sick and die. I read of somebody knocking over their snow globe and it smashed on the floor. Their cat must have licked a tiny bit of it thinking it was water. They didn’t know anything until he died 3 days later of kidney failure (i think, not liver, one of the 2) – I was shocked to hear so little can do so much. Apparently a very small amount is mixed in with the water in the production of snow globes. If I can find that story I will send Michael the link. Apparently the cat was being all lovey the first evening and on hindsight they realised it’s because he was drunk on the tiny bit of antifreeze ingested but at the time it wasn’t enough to be particularly remarkable behaviour and seemingly positive behaviour. This is a very sad story. So whenever I see a snowglobe and a cat in the same photo I write and warn the person who posted the photo. If it splashes your cat you gotta act quick to stop him licking and then straight to the vets. That stuff is lethal.

    I had no idea Lillies were that powerful. Personally I find that pollen and Lillies a bit over the top in the way they smell anyway. I wonder if cats in the wild die from this.. I know that poinsetiea’s are poisonous because humans have filled them with so much crap to keep them looking pretty over xmas time that they are toxic from artificial chemicals. My cat in Canada’s sister Molly, (Mooly the 1st 🙂 ) – got sick from nibbling on a pointsettia and we rushed her to the emergency. Her eyes were rolling it was unbeievably frightening. She came running to us for help. I was so scared, begging her not to die.

    I really do wonder about cats and lillys in the wild. A cat could easily brush on the pollen of a lilly. I wonder if it’s the pollen or again something thats added by humans in the context of ‘long lasting flowers’ for your vase. Maybe the ones in the ground aren’t toxic? I’m just thinking out loud… I am glad I read this article. My friend has lillys quite often and when I walk past I brush them sometimes – I will make sure not to touch them and if I do then that piece of clothing goes straight in a bag when I walk in the door. So lethal it’s scary.

    Call me paranoid or negative but I do wonder if it’s to do with humans that they be so toxic to cats. .

    • I had no idea snow globes contained antifreeze.

      A snow globe:

      There are lots of cases of deliberate poisoning of cats with anti-freeze. I have a long page on that:

      I also think that Marc could be right about something added to the lilies and flowers generally which is poisonous rather than the pollen. I’ll need to investigate that.

      It does strike me as strange that cats find plants poisonous. It seems unnatural. Would nature have evolved like this? Would nature have created plants that are poisonous to an animal? What is the point? And why just cats?

      Thanks Marc for querying that.

    • I can’t find information easily about insecticides used by plant nurseries. I wonder if lilies and lily pollen has insecticides on them from the seller/manufacturer and whether it is this chemical that kills cats. That makes more sense to me as well. This may apply to many other plants that are said to be poisonous to cats.

  4. A good warning article Michael, most cat lovers do know which plants and flowers are toxic to cats, but some don’t know.
    I’ll share this article in the hopes it may save some cats lives one day.


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