A Warning for Cat Parents – please be careful what plants and flowers you bring into your home and double check before you expose your fur babies to potentially dire consequences!

A friend stopped by my new house with a bouquet of mixed flowers as a housewarming gift – such a lovely and thoughtful gesture.  I was smart enough to know that some flowers are toxic to cats, but not wanting to offend her by trashing the flowers in front of her, I put them in a vase high on a bookshelf before we went out for lunch, thinking there was no way my 10 month old kitten, R2 would ever be able to get to them…

The next morning, I wake up for work to the sound of my kitten throwing up.  There is nothing in his vomit, I pass it off as “he’s just hyper” and start getting ready for my day.  A few hours later as I’m making myself lunch, I discover the flowers have been disturbed and notice petals and leaves all over my living room floor.  Queue the worry and panic…. I call SAGE Veterinary Centers immediately and they suggest I bring him in ASAP.  I wonder if they’re overreacting.

Upon arrival, they ask me if I’ve called Poison Control.  “No, why?”… in my head I’m thinking, “why the heck do I need poison control?”  Can’t you just fix this?  Little did I know, but my planned day was going to be thrown upside down by a stupid mistake I made!  SAGE Veterinary Center in Campbell takes R2 in, his heart rate is elevated and he’s drooling a little – we can’t tell if this is a symptom of eating the flowers or just because he’s a COVID kitty, hasn’t been socialized and doesn’t want to be at the vet.

After talking to the Emergency Dr., I call poison control.  I have the flowers with me that R2 had eaten, as well as a picture of the full bouquet.  We learn that the flowers he ate are chrysanthemums, alstroemeria, and goldenrod – and while they might give him an upset stomach, they’re not likely to kill him.  Phew!  But wait… there are lilies in the bouquet and even though there’s no evidence he’s gotten to them, any amount of pollen, leaf, flower or even the water from the bouquet could cause my little R2’s kidneys to fail and if he doesn’t get treatment ASAP he could die!

Dr. Dane at SAGE Veterinary Centers walks me through the various treatment options…. From the most aggressive option,  hospitalize him for 3 days, flush his kidneys with fluids and check his kidney values daily.  Our second option is to take him home and give him subcutaneous fluids and have me bring him in once a day to check his kidney values or finally, just take him home and wait and see.  Given the high likelihood and evidence that he might have been exposed I pick the most aggressive option – this decision was made a lot easier because we have health insurance for him.  After all of the angst and expense with my other cat, Obi over the years, I cannot express enough how much having insurance reduces what is an already stressful situation.  Now it’s just a waiting game… 

While you wait to hear how R2 is, here are some tips for keeping your cats safe from toxic flowers and plants:

  • The easiest way to ensure the safety of your cats – remove all plants from your house and keep your cats inside.
  • If this isn’t an option, remove toxic plants from areas the cat has access to.  
  • If your cats go outdoors, ensure your garden doesn’t have any plants that are toxic to cats (and dogs).  The toxicity of flowers and plants are not the same for cats and dogs so always make sure to check both.
  • Provide your cat with a kitty herb garden to chew on—there are a number available in pet stores. Try oat grass, catnip, or alfalfa. Wheat grass is also safe for cats.  Praise your kitty or give them treats when they chew on their kitty grass.  

If you find yourself in a similar predicament where your pets have been exposed to a toxic substance, here’s some advice for things to watch out for: listlessness, muscle weakness, vomiting (especially if the vomit contains leaves or vegetable matter), abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, tremors, diarrhea, or convulsion. 

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a toxic substance or poison: 

  1. Quickly determine the amount and type of plant or poison the animal has eaten. 
  2. Call your veterinarian immediately. If he or she is not available, contact the closest emergency veterinary clinic. 
  3. Carefully follow your veterinarian’s instructions for immediate care. 
  4. Immediately take your pet, samples of any vomit or stool passed, and a large sample of the suspected plant or substance to your veterinarian. 
  5. You or your veterinarian may also want to reach out to ASPCA Poison Control at 1-888-426-4435.

After an excruciating 72 hours, I am pleased to write that my story ends well.  As you can see – R2 is home again and thriving, and is still the curious monster that we know and love.  I can’t thank SAGE Veterinary Centers enough for all that they did for him – one tech even hand fed him and let him lick food off her fingers .  R2 has now used up 2 lives (ask me about the 9 pieces of foam flooring he ate at 5 months and that trip to the vet) but I’m glad he’s home and gets to live out his remaining lives with our family.

To close, if you ever find yourself in this predicament where you suspect your cat (or dog) has been exposed to a toxic substance, act quickly and refer to the tips above.  It could save your fur babies life.