WARNING: Flowers popular at Easter could kill cats
Hundreds of cats have been struck down after coming into contact with a flower which is hugely popular at Easter.
Vets are warning that lilies are so toxic just licking their leaves or even drinking water contaminated with their pollen could have potentially fatal consequences for felines.
One cat, Millie (pictured above), ended up on an IV drip at Vets Now - the UK's leading provider of pet emergency care - after licking pollen from the flowers.
Millie, whose mouth and paws were stained yellow as a result of the incident, was kept in overnight but survived the ordeal.
Vets Now treats around three cats a week for lily toxicity and there is often a rise in cases around Easter.
Dave Leicester, Vets Now's head of clinical intelligence, said: "We see a 50 per cent rise in pet emergency cases around this time of year and often it's due to cats and dogs eating things they shouldn't such as lilies and chocolate Easter eggs.
"Lilies are particularly poisonous to cats. They can cause severe diarrhoea, convulsions, acute kidney failure and even death.
"What makes them particularly dangerous is that all parts of the plant are toxic and even small ingestions, such as two or three leaves or petals or water from a vase containing lilies, can be potentially fatal.
"In fact, even very small amounts of pollen can be extremely dangerous. Cats can swallow a toxic amount just by grooming after brushing against the flowers. Lilies are so dangerous we'd call on cat owners never to have them in their house."
Over the past three years, Vets Now has treated at least 413 cats for lily poisoning.
However, the figure could be higher as many cases involving the flower were reported under general toxicity.
Cats of any age, breed or gender can be affected by lily poisoning.
Owners who suspect their cat has eaten a lily should not wait for signs or symptoms to appear before they contact a vet. Instead, they should telephone their vet immediately or, out of hours, their nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic.
Mr Leicester added: "If you think your cat has eaten or even licked lilies or you find lily pollen staining on her coat, nose or paws, you should seek urgent veterinary advice.
"It’s likely treatment will include intravenous fluids - a drip - and decontamination treatment. Early, aggressive treatment is essential for the best chance of success."
Not all lilies are toxic to cats. There are some varieties - such as the Peruvian, peace and calla - which are benign. However, unless you know exactly which flowers to look out for you're probably better avoiding them. The most dangerous lilies for cats are those belonging to the Lilium or Hemerocallis species. These include tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Easter, Japanese show, rubrum, stargazer, red, western, and wood lilies. The lily of the valley is also dangerous as it can cause an irregular heartbeat in cats when eaten.