Curious and loving to chew on fresh greenery, cats may be tempted to inspect a bouquet of cut Peruvian lilies, or Alstroemeria spp., in your home. Do not allow your feline to toy with Peruvian lilies, as the plant parts contain tulipalin, which can harm them if ingested. In the southern United States, gardeners may grow Peruvian lilies outdoors in the perennial garden, while northerners may plant tubers outdoors to grow just in the summertime. Keep outdoor cats away from these plants as well.
A brief lick or light chew on a Peruvian lily flower or leaf may cause little harm to an inquisitive cat. Monitor the cat, as the plant tissues do contain the compound tulipalin A. An allergenic lactone, it causes significant side effects if consumed. According to the ASPCA, gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting and diarrhoea ensue if felines eat significant amounts of the Peruvian lily. Kittens and small-sized breeds need less exposure compared to large-sized adult felines. The reaction to the toxin, nonetheless, may vary from cat to cat.
Tulipalin A and its parent compound, a glycoside called tuliposide, exists in all above-ground parts of the Peruvian lily: stems, leaves and flower petals. However, the release of tulipalin is greatest when stem tissues are crushed and exposed. When it comes to the inquisitive cat, more concern may be warranted when the animal chews on the stems, compared to merely licking or quickly chomping on a leaf or petal. Humans may also develop a skin rash when fondling Peruvian lilies, especially if they touch the sap.
The basic tulipalin A molecule comprises seven atoms. Both single and double/covalent bonds exist between the five carbon and two oxygen atoms in the microscopic structure. Tuliposides are converted into tulipalin A throughout all tissues of a Peruvian lily, occurring in a concentration of about 0.04 per cent in flower petals. The effects of tulipalin A exposure may be immediate or delayed from 12 to 48 hours.
If you suspect your cat has consumed Peruvian lily, monitor its demeanour and health. Examine the plant for signs of gnawing, as well as the nearby space for torn leaves or petals. The cat may have plant parts in its mouth or stuck on its claw. Remove them if possible. Note the time and contact your veterinarian, sharing your concern and providing any vital information such as the cat's weight, the amount of plant eaten, time since consumption and any symptoms witnessed. If the cat vomits, collect the vomit as a sample to bring to the vet clinic for further analysis and to inform treatment.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Peruvian Lily
- Botanical Dermatology Database; Alstroemeriaceae; Richard J. Schmidt
- PubMed; Direct Release of the Allergen Tulipalin A from Alstroemeria Cut Flowers: a Possible Source of Airborne Contact Dermatitis?; L.P. Christensen; 1999
- Sci-Toys: Tulipalin A
- "Toxicity of Houseplants"; David G. Spoerke, et al.; 1990
- Merrick Veterinary Group: Common Poisonous Plants and Fungi