Dogs often gnaw leaves, dig up the plant, or eat the whole thing. Cats aren’t as likely to eat plants, but just biting a lily leaf or petal can kill kitty. Felines more often paw-pat and shred leaves and stems during play, and may be poisoned when they later lick and clean their paws and claws.
Cats poisoned by lily toxin typically suffer kidney failure within 36 to 72 hours. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy or loss of appetite. Some cats suffer permanent kidney damage and lose their lives, while others can recover if treated in time with dialysis that gives the organs enough time to heal.
You can keep your pet family members safe and sound by choosing only pet-friendly safe varieties for your garden and home. Calla Lilies (below) and peace lilies (above), which don’t belong to the Lilium genus, are harmless to cats.
There are many other plants that prompt mild problems, such as excess salivation or mouth discomfort. Keeping these out of reach of curious paws may be sufficient to protect your animals. But pet lovers should steer clear of the worst plant offenders, both inside and out. If you see your pet with one or more of these signs, particularly if a suspect plant is within reach, get help immediately! First aid can save the cat or dog’s life. Then take the pet to see the veterinarian as quickly as possible.
Different poisons require very specific first aid. Usually that will be either 1) induce vomiting, (cats do this on their own very well–but never when you want them to!) or 2) give milk or water to wash out the mouth and dilute the poison. Making the pet vomit the wrong poisonous plant, though, could make a serious situation even more deadly, so you MUST know what to do for each type of plant.
Detailed advice for dealing with the most common plant poisoning is available in the book The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. The ASPCA Animal Poison-Control Center is available for telephone consultations (1-888-426-4435) in case of poisoning emergency.
What cat-safe plants do you have in your home? How do you keep the cat from destroying/eating them? Have you ever had a kitty-plant encounter of the dangerous kind? Please share!
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