Many plants can endanger your cats

January 27, 2019

I awoke this morning, as I have many times, with a cat on my chest, staring into my face. I have no idea how long she’d been there. Being able to sleep through Bug’s early-morning cat-in-a-china-shop ways is a blessing.

When I opened my eyes, Bug touched my nose with her paw. Pressed down on it, as if it were my ON button and she was activating me for the day. I played along and got up.

She followed me to the bathroom, then to the kitchen, then to start laundry, before coming to a stop at my desk. She’s now inches away, paw threatening the keys. I have no doubt she will follow through with this threat, but only at the most inopportune time.

She’s a brat, this cat. Yet I love her so much it often scares me. Many times during the day, Bug will need to be held, so she will approach whoever is passing and reach her little arms in the air like a child. “Up,” she seems to be saying. When you lift her, her arms remain outstretched, Superman style. We sometimes fly her around that way, much to the delight of our dog. Her arch nemesis and best friend.

It frightens me to think how easily I might have accidentally killed her.

Back in December, our old cat, Sully, died suddenly. One minute he was fine and sleeping snuggled up against Don. The next morning, dead behind the couch. He hadn’t so much as even coughed. We chalked it up to old age, considered his gentle passing a rare blessing in the pet-lover’s world, where we’re often required to take that last and most difficult step.

Now, though, I wonder what we might have missed.

This sad thought was

brought to mind because of something that happened to my friend Marilyn Wrenn, of Charleston. Marilyn recently lost her mother, and nearly suffered an additional loss as a result of some funeral flowers, Asiatic lilies, which had been sent to their home.

As pet owners go, I’d say Marilyn is more educated about animal welfare than most, yet she was unaware the danger the lilies posed to the family’s cats. Fortunately, Alexandra Monday was at the home and saw pollen on her cat Oscar’s face, which led to finding a lily leaf had been chewed. Another friend, Connor Haynes, knew these could pose a serious problem for cats.

“Even a few grains of pollen can cause kidney failure in a matter of hours if not treated aggressively,” Marilyn said.

Fortunately, the veterinarian was able to get the cat to vomit some of the leaf. Oscar was then was given fluids to flush his kidneys. Although he had to be hospitalized for 48 hours, it appears they caught it in time.

Marilyn mentioned wanting to start a campaign for florists to add warnings on dangerous plants for cat owners, since it takes so little exposure for a lily to kill a cat. “Even the water they’re in can cause death.”

It was that statement that made me wonder if perhaps our Sully hadn’t died from old age after all, but rather from Christmas tree water. We’d added nothing to ours — no aspirin, no packet of powder that came with the tree — but Marilyn’s experience led me to research other little-known dangers to cats, and among the many was Christmas tree water. Although I doubt that’s was the cause since no one witnessed Sully under the tree and he didn’t act sick at all, there’s really no way to know.

What I do know is that I’m now better educated about dangers to cats, among them moldy foods, grapes and raisins, onions, garlic, shallots and leeks. The list of plant dangers is long, with the most common being lilies, poinsettias, elephant ear, spider plants, dieffenbachia and sago palms. I learned human medications are especially dangerous to cats, with as little as half an aspirin being enough to cause death. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can also be deadly, as can human heart medications and antidepressants.

As I was attempting to type the paragraph above, Bug deleted two sentences with a quick double-slap of her paw, knocked my pencil cup to the floor and then tackled my arm, rolled onto her back and began kicking me violently with her hind feet.

Yet I love her so much that it scares me.

Karln Fuller can be reached via email at karlnfuller@gmail.com.

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