Though not nearly as toxic to cats as true lilies of the genuses lilium and hemerocallis, the peace lily contains the substance calcium oxalate, which makes chewing on any part of the plant an unpleasant experience for pets. Consuming peace lilies, also called Mauna Loa plants, causes oral irritation and an upset stomach in cats and dogs.
Peace Lily Identification
The peace lily is a tropical species that belongs to the taxonomic family Araceae. The leaves are wide, green and shiny. The plant's Greek scientific name, spathiphyllum, is a reference to the spathes that surround the plant's flower clusters. Initially white, the spathes gradually turn a pale green. Peace lilies are popular indoor plants because they bloom year-round, do not require much maintenance and need relatively little light to flower.
When a cat bites into a peace lily, the chewing action releases the plant's calcium oxalate crystals. These insoluble crystals produce a mild to intense burning sensation when they come into contact with the mucosa of the mouth, throat, tongue and esophagus. If ingested, the crystals will irritate the stomach as well. A cat will feel the effects of munching on a peace lily almost immediately. Calla lilies also contain calcium oxalate crystals and have the same effect on pets as peace lilies. Unlike the more poisonous true lilies -- Asiatic, tiger and Easter lilies, to name a few -- peace and calla lilies do not cause acute kidney failure in cats.
Signs of Intoxication
The pain associated with peace lily intoxication may cause your cat to rub her face and mouth with her paw. The cat's mouth, lips, tongue and even her upper respiratory passageways may become swollen. If the swelling is severe, she may have difficulty swallowing and breathing. Gastrointestinal discomfort may manifest as foaming at the mouth, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and a decreased appetite.
Seek Veterinary Care
Take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible if you believe he has eaten or chewed on a peace lily. If you can, take part or all of the offending plant to the appointment -- there may be pieces of it in your cat's vomit -- to help the veterinarian confirm that the intoxication is in fact from a peace lily and not from a more dangerous plant species.