Friday, November 18, 2005

Public service announcement: Cats and lilies

NOTE: Did your cat just eat a lily? Are you here because you are Googling around wondering what to do? If so, don't read this post; just take your cat to the vet and tell them what happened.

I took my cat to the vet this morning for her check-up and a couple of vaccinations, and I realized that it has been almost exactly a year since she spent a weekend in the ICU there, having water pumped through her kidneys.

I was given some flowers for my birthday, including some pretty white lilies. I brought them home and The Husband trimmed the stems and put them in a vase for me. Before bed that night, we put the flowers up on a high shelf that Cecilia never seemed particularly interested, so that she wouldn’t chew on the flowers and give herself an upset stomach.

I woke up early the next morning and found out that the kitty had indeed had an upset stomach during the night. She had left the flowers alone, but the trash hadn’t been put under the sink, and it looked as though the cat had gone through it. I cleaned up more cat puke than I had ever seen in my life, while Cecilia followed me around the house, and then went to get ready for work.

In the shower, it suddenly occurred to me that I had read something at some point about Easter lilies and cats. My flowers weren’t Easter lilies, but maybe the flowers were related. As soon as I was dressed, I sat down and Googled for information on cats and lilies.

And then I commenced with the freaking out.

Lilies can be toxic to cats, causing kidney failure within 36 to 72 hours if a cat doesn’t receive prompt treatment, I read on the Animal Poison Control Center website. It said a cat might vomit within a few hours of ingesting any part of the plant, and might become lethargic and lose its appetite.

I studied Cecilia. She seemed to be acting normally and she had eaten some of the kibble I gave her when I first got up. I settled back down at the computer, read a little more, to work myself up into a good and proper state of panic. Then I woke up The Husband and called the vet.

“Bring her in right now,” the woman on the phone told me, when I explained that my cat may have eaten some amount of a lily stem. “It doesn’t matter what part of the lily or how much, you need to bring her in.”

They took her carrier from us in the waiting room, rather than bringing us into an exam room to look at her. Soon a vet we’d never met before (it’s a decent-sized practice with a 24-hour animal hospital), called us into an exam room. She told us things I already knew from reading online, and laid out for us how they could treat her. They would keep her at the hospital for the weekend, pumping water through her kidneys and monitoring her for signs of kidney damage. She handed us a form, explaining that we need to pick what level of resuscitation we wanted in case something happened, and left us alone. We cried a little bit, signed the forms, and handed over a credit card. It wasn’t until later that I wondered if such forms for humans ever included the approximate costs of each type of treatment. At the time I only had one thought going through my brain: MY BIRTHDAY FLOWERS MIGHT BE KILLING MY KITTY OH MY HOLY FUCK PLEASE FIX HER NOW.

They promised to call us as soon as they had results from her blood work. Those initial results were good—it looked as though we’d gotten her treated before too much kidney damage had been done—but they needed to keep her for at least 72 hours, to make sure everything was really okay.

Over the course of the weekend, her BUN and creatinine levels fluctuated. At first they would be fine, but when they did another test 12 hours later, they would be elevated, indicating possible kidney damage. The animal hospital allowed us to visit her, so we went over twice a day that weekend. They would bring her to us in an exam room, so we could pet her and hold her. They were worried that she wasn’t eating much, so we would try to coax her to eat some of the canned cat food and jarred baby food they were trying to feed her. Then we would let them take her away again, to hook her kidneys back up to the machine, and we would go home and wait anxiously for them to call us back with results from the next blood draw.

We cheered when the vet who was on call on Sunday afternoon told us we could take her home that night. Relieved, we went out to dinner and a movie, and picked her up on our way home, along with instructions to feed her senior cat food (which has less protein and so requires less work by the kidneys), even though she wasn’t even four years old, and give her antibiotics twice a day. She was shaved in a couple of places where she’d had IVs and blood draws, so she looked kind of funny, and she hid inside our box spring whenever we looked at her like we might be considering shoving one of those antibiotic pills down her throat, but other than that she was her normal self. We took her back to the vet a couple of times in the next month for blood work to check her kidney function. The results were fine, but we kept her on the senior food, just in case.

Today, in addition to her regular exam and a couple of vaccines, the vet did another blood draw to make sure that Cecilia is still okay. If the results are fine (we’ll find out tomorrow), we can switch her back to normal food.

So basically, this has just been a long, roundabout way of saying: IF YOU HAVE A CAT, KEEP ALL LILIES OUT OF YOUR HOUSE AT ALL TIMES. Your kitty (and your credit card statement) will thank you.



stark said...

Geez... I didn't know about Lilies being toxic to cats... Thanks!

matty said...

i'm glad you're cat's going to be okay.
didn't you read the manual that came with the cat?
i'm sure there's an anti-lillie section in it.

another thing. can dogs have lillies? just wondering.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this - we're currently going through the same with our beautiful ball of fluff, Crystal, in the UK.

It seems there isn't so much publicity about lilies at all here and we never knew they could be so toxic.

So glad your cat is ok - your story has given us hope.