By Dr. Jeremy Campbell BVSc, MANZCVS (Feline Med) RCVS Advanced Practitioner (Feline Medicine) MRCVS
Mother’s Day is fast approaching and it is the perfect time to celebrate our lovely mothers and all they have done for us with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
These treats which spell happiness and brownie points from Mum could spell disaster for our feline friends if they choose to celebrate the day unbeknownst to you.
Flowers are always guaranteed to put a smile on mum’s face and the ten favourite flowers to give on her special day according to Interflora UK are; Carnation; Rose; Sunflower; Gerbera Daisy; Tulip; Violet; Orchid; Lily; Freesia and Alstroemeria. Of this list Carnations, Tulips and Lilies are all toxic in some way to cats. Sometimes we want to give a gift that lasts more than a few days so we think a houseplant would be lovely; Crocuses; Cylamens, Hyacinth or Azaleas…….all toxic.
The big ones to worry about are those beautiful monsters of the Lilium family which includes Easter and Asian or Oriental lilies. These lilies are particularly toxic and are unfortunately present in a huge number in a majority of store-bought and designer bouquets. They are incredibly toxic to our cats causing acute renal failure and potentially death. All parts of the lily are toxic including the pollen, even the water they are sitting in is a source of danger. It doesn’t take much for an inquisitive cat to wander over and brush against these fatal floral fancies. Pollen on the coat, coat groomed, you understand how is goes.
Calla lilies are not the same family as above and while they aren’t fatal but can cause nasty stomach upsets and damage to the mouth – best to avoid.
Not on that list but also popular are Chrysanthemums, Amaryllis and Anthurium spp. and the humble but increasingly present Hydrangea…all toxic.
Toxicity signs vary from the severe organ damage and potential death (lily, crocus and azalea) through to vomiting, diarrhoea, excess salivation, depression, oral damage and inflammation of the skin (the rest).
Despite this list of belligerent blooms there still a huge array of beautiful flowers you can give mum or a loved one, it just pays to be in the know about what can cause harm to the other non-human members of your household. If you are going to give flowers as a gift, dig a little deeper and find out if there are any furry family members that could become unwitting victims of a flower disaster.
A little bit of extra time spent organising the gift will be worth it when an incredibly thoughtful cat-safe bouquet arrives and remains proudly on display as opposed to fatal floristry being hastily whisked away into a cupboard out of harm’s way or worse removed to the bin.
Something that is often forgotten in that moment of intense excitement and the unwrapping is the numerous small strings and ties that are used to hold your bouquet together. These, particularly for a kitten or younger cat constitute the perfect toy, they are also the perfect size to swallow and potentially become stuck in the intestines– please remember to clear away all your wrapping and push everything deep into the bin…a small tie hanging over the edge is way too much temptation to resist and this will happily be ‘attacked’ and eaten.
For more information on these and toxic plants in general go to The International Cat Care website here. International Cat Care also have an active campaign calling for greater awareness of the potential toxic effects of lilies and clearer labelling for consumers here. Please spread the word.
If you think your kitten or cat has been exposed to a potential toxic flower or plant, even if you are unsure please call your veterinary clinic immediately.
Dr. Jeremy Campbell is founder of The London Cat Clinic, a feline only veterinary practice which opened in May 2017. In 2015 he became a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Advanced Practitioner in Feline Medicine, 1 of only 15 people to currently hold that qualification in the United Kingdom.