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Easter Lilies: They May Look Pretty, But...

To the Greeks, Easter lilies were a symbol of regeneration, sprouting from droplets of milk that fell from the sky while Juno nursed her baby Hercules. To the early Christians, they became a symbol of the Virgin Mary, after she died and visitors supposedly found the flowers in her tomb three days later.

But to cats, Easter lilies are just plain poisonous. Unfortunately, they also appear to be quite tasty; every year, veterinarians treat cats who've become sick after dining on the delicacy.

Along with other members of the Lilium genus and the Hemerocallis genus—including tiger lily, rubrum lily, Japanese show lily, and some species of daylily—the Easter lily can cause kidney failure and even death in our feline friends. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, all parts of the lily plant are toxic; even the ingestion of one leaf can be enough to make a cat severely ill. Within two hours, cats may begin vomiting, grow increasingly depressed, and stop eating.

Lily ingestion may cause mild gastrointestinal upset in dogs, but dogs show no signs of systemic organ damage; rats and rabbits also appear to be unaffected.

To keep your adopted kitties and other cats in the community from accidentally munching their way to their own undoing, your shelter should alert pet owners to the dangers of lilies and other toxic houseplants—especially around the Easter holidays, when lilies are commonly given as gifts. And remind people to seek immediate veterinary care if they think their animals may have treated themselves to something poisonous.


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