Dear Christopher Cat
As soon as spring arrives, I plan to add some lily of the valley to my garden. My indoor-outdoor cats chew many of my plants, so I want to be sure this one is safe for them. Is it?
Unfortunately, lily of the valley is poisonous to us cats.
The plant contains cardenolides, chemicals that are extremely toxic to the heart. All parts of the plant -– flowers, leaves, stems and especially the roots –- are poisonous when ingested.
Even the water in a vase of lily of the valley contains enough of these cardiotoxins to poison a cat.
Initial signs of toxicity include vomiting, drooling and occasionally diarrhea. Then the cat develops a slow heart rate, low blood pressure and eventually an irregular heart beat.
Seizures also may occur. Sometimes death is so sudden that no abnormal clinical signs are observed.
If the affected cat reaches a veterinarian quickly enough, the prognosis is good.
If you want to enjoy lily of the valley in your garden, you should keep your cats inside. For instructions on making the transition, visit our Web site’s index to cat columns and look under “indoor cats.”