ASK THE VET: Easter lilies can cause kidney failure in cats

Easter lilies cause kidney failure in cats. (The Sentinel-Record file photo)

Q I love lilies, especially Easter lilies. My two recently adopted cats are very inquisitive and explore every new item I bring home. I don't want them to damage the Easter lilies that will decorate my home over the holiday. Please tell me cats aren't attracted to plants.

A: I'm more worried about the lilies damaging your cats than the other way around. Easter lilies — and other lilies, including day lilies, Stargazers and tiger lilies — are extremely dangerous to cats.

All parts of the plant cause kidney failure in cats.

The flower is the most toxic part, though eating a leaf or even brushing up against the pollen and licking it off the fur can severely damage the kidneys. Cats also can be poisoned by drinking the water from the vase that holds the lilies.

Clinical signs, including lethargy, loss of appetite and regurgitation, begin within hours of exposure. Immediate veterinary care is needed to reverse the kidney damage and save the cat's life.

For unknown reasons, many cats are attracted to lilies. So, my advice is to choose some beautiful silk Easter lilies for your home. You and your cats can safely enjoy them every spring for years to come.

Q: I use an oven mitt to protect my hands from bites and scratches when I play with my puppy, Zoey. She loves the mitt, and my thin skin remains intact. She brings me the mitt when she wants to play and stops when I remove it and give her a verbal cue.

My spouse thinks I'm promoting aggression. What do you think?

A: Though you may feel Zoey isn't acting aggressively, others may see her behavior differently. What happens if she grabs another adult's gloved hand and damages the fine leather? How will the authorities treat Zoey if she bites the mitten on a child's hand and breaks a finger?

Your job as a puppy parent is to teach Zoey what her mother and littermates would have taught her if she had remained with them longer. These lessons translate well to living with humans.

One of the most important lessons a puppy must learn is bite inhibition. Once Zoey understands this concept, she'll gently carry your fuzzy slippers to you, and she'll have a soft mouth around other people.

But you must teach her, because bite inhibition doesn't come naturally. Puppies explore the world by putting things in their mouths, just as human babies do. Biting and mouthiness are normal parts of puppy play and also help relieve the discomfort of teething.

Moreover, biting is genetically programmed into many dogs. For example, some working breeds control their flocks and herds by nipping at their heels.

Pups also use biting as a communication tool. It can mean anything from, "No, don't do that" to "I want some attention."

As you can imagine, a puppy that hasn't learned bite inhibition may grow into an adult that bites to get attention, to resist nail trimming or even to herd running children together into a group.

To manage puppy biting, don't play tug-of-war games or tease with your hands. Instead, redirect the biting puppy to appropriate chew toys.

Distract your pup from biting by asking her to sit or retrieve a ball.

If she bites, yelp as though you've been hurt and walk away, just as her littermates would do.

Exercise Zoey to tire her out. If she gets so wound up that she can no longer focus, calm her down with a brief timeout in her crate.

If these measures don't work, firmly say, "No bites!" and move your hand away. Don't hit or otherwise punish her, because that doesn't teach her the desired behavior, and it can lead to fear, anxiety and aggression.

Remember to reward good behavior always. Praise and pet Zoey when she's calm, and give her a small treat when she's not mouthy.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at