Plants harmful to cats: Apollo's story

One owner shares the life-threatening events that unfolded when her kitten came into contact with potentially deadly lilies, which she thought were safely out of reach. Plus, how you can learn from the steps she took to keep your own pet safe.

‘My beautiful Bengal kitten, Apollo, was just four months old when he very nearly died from licking the pollen on a bunch of lilies that my husband had bought for me,’ says owner Alice Escott. ‘I have an older cat, Zeus, so I knew that even brushing up against the leaves of certain lilies is dangerous for cats, and I put them in a vase very high up on a shelf. I was certain Apollo couldn’t reach them as he’d shown no interest in climbing,’ she explains.

‘But our flat was in chaos because we were in the process of moving, so I was horrified when I looked around and saw that Apollo had climbed a tall stack of packing boxes and reached the lilies. He was happily sniffing and licking them and his mouth, whiskers and face were covered in the bright-orange pollen. I panicked, lifted him away from them and wiped as much pollen off his face as possible. But it was obvious he’d ingested some, as he began to act lethargic and unlike himself – it took just a second for the toxin to take hold.

‘I rang the vet straight away – they told me not to wait for any further symptoms to develop and to bring Apollo in immediately. The vet explained it was an emergency, particularly because the toxins from the pollen can take affect so quickly, causing kidney damage and possibly kidney failure within less than two days.

‘I was devastated but, luckily, Apollo received the treatment he needed within minutes. He was put on a drip for two days, and kept under observation by the vet who explained that the intravenous fluid would flush out the effects of the poison. Then it was a horrendous waiting game to see if Apollo was going to be all right. When the vet finally said he was past the danger period, I burst into tears of relief! He looked as perky and mischievous as ever when we collected him, but we were advised to keep an eye out for any excessive drinking or weeing, sickness or general lethargy that seemed out of the ordinary.

‘Thankfully, Apollo had none of these symptoms, although for months afterwards I felt paranoid about what he ate or even brushed up against. I kept him inside until he’d had all his jabs and had been neutered, and carefully monitored everything he ate and came into contact with.

‘At the top of my kitten safety list now is banning any lilies in the house, and making sure I know what other household plants could be harmful to cats, such as cyclamen and amaryllis. Apollo’s close shave has also taught me that you should never underestimate just how ingenious, inquisitive and energetic a young cat can be. If something looks interesting or tempting, they will try and reach it, however impossible it may look to you. It’s best not to take any risks.’

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