Yesterday I wrote about how toxic the true lilies, ie Easter lilies are to cats. And if you missed the often-repeated message in the blog here it is again. If you live with cats, please do not bring lilies into the home or yard. Today I want to talk about the “other lily”, the Peace Lily. Don’t let the name fool you; it is not a true lily.
Peace lilies are also called by their botanical name, Spathiphyllum wallisii. They look very different than lilies in that they are mostly a green leafy plant and are a very common houseplant (not a cut flower). Though they also have a toxic mechanism it is completely different than lilies, and is rarely if ever fatal.
Peace lilies contain calcium oxalate crystals in specialized cells within the leaves. When an animal chews on the leaves (think how much cats like to chew on houseplants) the plant cells expel the microscopic crystals. The crystals have sharp little edges and embed inside the animal’s mouth, gums, and tongue. Occasionally they will also become embedded in the esophagus. This causes intense pain and drooling. It can even change the tone of a cat’s meow temporarily. Because of the discomfort the dog or cat may not want to eat or drink for a little while. The good news though is that’s usually about it. The pain and discomfort eventually go away, and the animal returns to normal again, usually within a few hours. The recovery can be hastened by giving the dog or cat something rich in calcium, like milk or yoghurt. The calcium in dairy products helps to dissolve the embedded crystals. And most cats and dogs will readily drink a little milk. Just don’t overdo it as most adult animals are lactose intolerant, and dairy products can therefore cause some diarrhea.
So if you live with cats and one of them chews on a peace lily, it may seem a bit scary when the cat drools and stops eating and maybe even yowls a bit. But rest assured that it will be temporary.