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Letters: Kathy Watson – Cat Owners Beware

| December 30, 2011

A national alert has been issued to pet owners after pollen from a bunch of supermarket flowers killed a cat.

When John Hartnett bought his wife oriental stargazer lilies, he was unaware that he was passing a death sentence on the family’s 13-year-old Siamese, Catalina. The cat brushed against the flowers then licked the pollen from its fur. Within minutes she started being sick and, within hours, had died after going blind, suffering renal failure and becoming
virtually paralysed.

The RSPCA, which is reporting an increase in such cases, is to launch a campaign to alert people to the dangers and lobby for warnings on the flowers. The RSPCA said: “The problem of lilies isn’t widely known and we are seeing an increase in the number of cases we come across. This is because the flowers are becoming more readily available in Britain. “All lilies are poisonous to cats, with just one leaf eaten possibly leading to death. We will now be urging both manufacturers and producers to issue warnings on their goods so that consumers have an informed choice. “We also hope to work with the Royal College for Veterinary Surgeons’ poison department to produce information fact sheets and figures on this awful matter.”

Mr Hartnett, 51, a computer engineer from Folkestone, Kent, said: “Catalina was a curious, fastidious animal and would have investigated the new flowers. But this proved absolutely fatal. “She endured a vile death. She was suffering terribly. I blame myself but the vet we rushed her to said there was just no chance to save her. “We have seen the flowers in many places, all with no warnings at all. In America, I have discovered that there is immense coverage on this subject warning people of the dangers but, here, there is nothing. “I can’t believe something so simple as a flower can kill pets in such a terrible, terrible way, and there is absolutely no way of knowing about it.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals singles out the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum), tiger lily (Lilium ligrinum), rubrum lily (Lilium speciosum), Japanese show lily (Lilium lancifolium) and some species of the day lily (Hemerocallis) as liable to cause kidney failure in cats. The Feline Advisory Bureau, a charity based in Tisbury, Wilts, said: “Symptoms of poisoning from these plants include protracted vomiting, anorexia and depression and ingestion can cause severe, possibly fatal, kidney damage.” Cats can survive if taken to a vet within six hours but the chances of survival decrease rapidly after that. After 18 hours, the kidneys stop working.

Alex Campbell, a toxicologist and managing director of the Poison Advisory Service for vets, said: “When we recieve a call about cats coming into contact with any of the lilium flower family we treat it very seriously indeed. It is one of the worst reactions an animal can come across and it needs highly aggressive management. All parts of a lily are extremely toxic. “A cat that comes into contact with a lily deteriorates very rapidly. I have even heard of a cat being given human dialysis in an attempt to overcome the effects of toxins in the kidneys.”

The danger to cats only began to emerge in 1990 when the first incident was reported in America.. Last year, the poison control centre at the ASPCA handled 275 cases. John Cushnie, a panellist on Gardeners’ Question Time, advised gardeners who wanted to avoid harm to cats to select tall lilies and stake those that need support.

Category: Feline Resources

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