There are a lot of plants that are toxic to cats, but none is more so than the lily.
You hear warnings about mistletoe and poinsettias around Christmas, you hear warnings about daffodils and even peonies in the spring. When you see an image on the internet of a cat with any sort of plant that is on the toxic list, you inevitably get someone piping up warning you that plant is toxic.
Generally, that toxicity means they have to eat a majority of the plant, and then they'll get some mild to moderate GI distress. It is by no means something you want to happen, but generally, the fears are quite overblown.
The lily is the one plant where the fear mongering is actually quite warranted. Every little thing about this plant is deadly to a cat (and a dog) and can kill your cat fairly quickly. Even with quick medical intervention a cat can still be at serious risk of death, and most cat owners have absolutely no idea.
This is one plant that you really should fear. This is one plant where you should speak up if you see it in the home of a cat lover as it can kill within hours.
Why do I make the pronouncement that the lily is actively trying to kill your cat?Because every single thing about it is deadly. If your cat chews on the leaves. If your cat knocks over a vase of flowers and licks the water (or walks through it and then cleans the water off its paws). And then there is the pollen.
Most florists will pull the pollen stamens off a lily plant when they put it in a floral arrangement, but they can't pull them off the closed buds. The reason they do this is because this pollen is very sticky and it stains, and there is a lot of it. As the plant goes through its cycle, the pollen naturally wants to fall off the stamen and spread itself in hopes of pollinating something. So even if your cat doesn't eat your flowers, and even if it doesn't knock your plants over, your cat is still at serious risk if you bring lilies into your home. Cats just walking by lilies can die.
Sadly, most people do not know this and the giving and sending of flowers is a very popular way to celebrate, or sympathize, with a loved one. Florists appear not to be aware of this danger and since lilies are a wonderful statement flower that adds a lot of scent and pop to a bouquet they are quite favored in bouquets. I actually received a bouquet with lilies in it after specifically asking that there not be any added.
Because lilies are so toxic to cats and dogs, it would be so nice if the lily came with a warning label. Stores that sell them should put up a sign that says keep away from pets. Florists and websites that sell flowers should ask if these are being sent to a household with pets. Something. Anything.
Please, never be afraid of overreacting to seeing lilies in a pet lover's home. This is something that we need to take quite seriously.
Now, it should be said there are three very common forms of 'lily' that aren't toxic to cats or dogs, and those are the Peace, the Peruvian and the Cala lily, but if you are ever in doubt, err on the side of caution. Take the plant and the pet directly to the vet. The longer you wait, the lower your chances of survival.