Valentine’s Day lilies killed animal lover’s three cats after they were poisoned by toxic pollen dust

  • Sonia Barnett, 40, was unaware lily pollen can blind, paralyse or kill cats
  • She received a bouquet from an ex partner and put it on window sill
  • Within days Tinker, one, Charlie, five and her beloved Garfy, 17, died

By
Leon Watson

07:46 EST, 7 March 2013


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08:05 EST, 7 March 2013

An animal lover given a romantic bunch of flowers on Valentine’s Day by an ex watched in horror as they poisoned and killed her three pet cats.

Sonia Barnett, 40, put the bouquet of lilies, roses and carnations on her window sill – unaware that pollen from lilies can blind, paralyse or kill cats.

Her prized pets brushed against the plants and inhaled the toxic dust and began trembling and meowing in pain before keeling over.

Lauren Barker, 14 and her mother Sonia Barnett, 40, Hailsham, East Sussex who received a huge bouquet of flowers on Valentine's Day which contained lilies whose pollen poisoned three of their cats

Lauren Barker, 14 and her mother Sonia Barnett, 40, Hailsham, East Sussex who received a huge bouquet of flowers on Valentine’s Day which contained lilies whose pollen poisoned three of their cats

The bouquet of flowers which Sonia Barnett, 40, from Hailsham, East Sussex received on Valentine's Day

Killers: The bouquet of flowers which Sonia Barnett, 40, from Hailsham, East Sussex received on Valentine’s Day

Mrs Barnett rushed the stricken cats to the vets but within days lost Tinker, one, Charlie, five and her beloved companion of 17 years, Garfy.

A fourth cat Sparky, three, survived but could have suffered permanent renal failure.

Mrs Barnett, a gardener from Hailsham, East Sussex, said: ‘The flowers were a lovely Valentine’s surprise from an ex-partner.

‘I put them in a vase on the window sill and thought nothing more of it. I had absolutely no idea they could harm my babies.

‘I realised something was going horribly wrong the next day when they suddenly went off their food.

‘The next morning I found Tinker collapsed behind the sofa. I took him to the vet but ten minutes later my friend came rushing in carrying Garfy.

Sonia Barnett's cat Garfy who was poisoned by the pollen in a bouquet of flowers
Sonia Barnett's cat Tinker who was poisoned by the pollen in a bouquet of flowers

Sonia Barnett’s cats Garfy (left) and Tinker (right) who were poisoned by the pollen in a bouquet of flowers

Sonia Barnett's cat Sparky who survived being poisoned by the pollen
The bouquet of flowers which Sonia Barnett, 40, from Hailsham, East Sussex received on Valentine's Day

Sonia Barnett’s cat Sparky who survived being poisoned by the pollen

Lauren Baker, 14, holding a kitten
Lauren Baker, 14, holding her cat Sparky

Lauren Baker, 14, holding a kitten (left) and her surviving cat Sparky (right)

‘They looked terrible, they were trembling and crying out. It broke my heart to see them in pain like that. I had no idea what was happening.’

Experts warn that many common lilies sold in Britain, including the Easter lily, tiger lily, rubrum lily and Japanese lily, can cause kidney failure and sudden death if a cat ingests any part of the plant or its pollen.

Animals taken to the vets within six hours can recover but their chances of survival diminish rapidly after that.

SPRING DANGER: THE FLOWERS THAT ARE DEADLY FOR CATS

Cats Protection warn several types of lilies have been found to be deadly to cats, including Easter lily, tiger lily, rubrum lily, Japanese show lily, some species of day lily, and certain other members of the Liliaceae family.

Ingesting just one leaf can result in severe poisoning, and within a very short time your cat will exhibit signs of toxicity.

All parts of the lily plant are considered toxic to cats, and consuming even small amounts can cause severe poisoning.

Kittens are particularly prone to being poisoned as they explore their environment, and older cats are often affected simply because they brush against the flower and get pollen on their coats.

Later they groom the pollen off, and of course ingest the lily pollen as they clean their fur. The primary toxic effects are on the kidneys.

Within minutes to hours of ingesting part of the lily plant, your cat may vomit, become lethargic, or develop a lack of appetite.

As the toxin begins to affect the kidneys, these signs continue and worsen as the kidney damage progresses.

Without prompt and proper treatment by a veterinarian, the cat may develop kidney failure in approximately 36 to 72 hours.

Mrs Barnett‘s four other kittens mercifully avoided contact with the flowers which were bought from a local florist.

She said: ‘Tinker was the first to die. Then Garfy went in my arms as I discussed euthanasia options with the vet.

‘Charlie survived a little longer but she’s now buried in the garden along with the boys. I loved them all so much, they were my babies.

‘I couldn’t believe when the vet told me what had killed them. I can’t believe that the risks of lilies have been well-established in other countries but we hardly hear about it here.

‘Thousands upon thousands of lilies will go on sale this weekend for Mother’s Day and I’m petrified that it’s going to happen to someone else.’

Mrs Barnett and her daughter Lauren, 14, are now visiting local florists, shops and supermarkets and asking staff to out up warning signs in time for Mother’s day.

The RSPCA urged all animal lovers to consult its website for a full list of everyday household items that can cause harm to pets.

A spokesman said: ‘Many people take for granted that what’s safe for them is safe for their pets.

‘We would urge everyone to check the sorts of items that could cause a hazard because we would hate to think of anyone else having to go through what this poor woman has had to endure.’

Richard Dodd, of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Pet owners need to be aware of this, and other, risks. Flowers are sold at a wide range of outlets but our members recognise how important this issue is.

‘Generally, they include a warning on the label of flower products saying that lilies are harmful to cats if eaten.’

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