Mr. Mistoffelees Will Be Forever Four Months Old All Because He Accidentally Brushed Up Against a Bouquet of Lilies and Then Unwittingly Attempted to Lick the Deadly Pollen Off of His Fur
|Mr. Mistoffelees Covered in Orange Lily Pollen|
"Had I known that lilies were so deadly to cats I would never have had them in my house."
-- Elizabeth Mackie
There is a well-known Sprichwort about curiosity killing cats and while there unquestionably is some truth to it, the abysmal ignorance and downright carelessness of their owners doubtlessly claims the lives of a far greater number of them. A good case in point was the totally preventable death back on January 10th of a handsome white kitten with patches of black known as Mr. Mistoffelees all because his owner was unaware that lilies are deadly to cats. Lamentably, his life ended almost as soon as it had begun in that he was only four months old.
The unfortunate chain of events that culminated in his demise were set in motion either shortly before or just after he entered this perilous old world when seventy-six-year-old Pat Mackie died of a stroke in September of last year. Depressed over the loss of her mother, daughter Elizabeth adopted Misty, as he was known, and brought him home to live with her in her house in Whitchurch, three kilometers east of the Welsh border and thirty kilometers north of Shrewsbury in Shropshire, the West Midlands.
Everything apparently went swimmingly until Mackie gave away a chest of drawers to an acquaintance who reciprocated by presenting her with a bouquet of white lilies which she then placed in a vase on the ledge of a bay window in her home. Tragically as things later turned out, Mr. Mistoffelees also was partial to that particular perch.
As a consequence, he accidentally brushed against the flowers numerous times while gazing out the window and by the time that the thirty-eight-year-old bar manageress had so much as a clue as to what was afoot his fur was covered in orange pollen. Although she was totally ignorant of just how toxic lily pollen is to cats, Mackie nevertheless had enough bon sens to know that it did not belong in his fur.
She initially attempted to remove it but when her ministrations were met with resistance her next thought was not to seek immediate veterinary intervention but rather to post a photograph of him online accompanied by a plea for suggestions on how best to go about cleansing his fur. It was only after respondents had enlightened her that she belatedly realized the gravity of the situation.
"Suddenly people started warning me that lily pollen is toxic to cats and I should check he hadn't eaten any," she disclosed to the Daily Mail on January 27th. (See "Cat Owner Is Devastated When the Beloved Kitten She Bought to Cheer Herself Up Is Killed by Pollen from Lilies.") "I had never heard this before, I was immediately worried so I called the vets."
In Misty's case it would appear that he ultimately was done in by his species' renowned fastidiousness in that he is believed to have attempted to lick off the pollen with his tongue. It is not known, however, either how long he was exposed to it or how much of it he ingested.
|Mr. Mistoffelees at Play|
It likewise has not been disclosed what, if any, symptoms of lily toxicity he was exhibiting by the time that Mackie tumbled to his plight. Some of the outwardly observable ones are, inter alia, drooling, vomiting, lethargy, depression, a lack of appetite, and increased urination. Swollen and painful kidneys are another telling symptom but blood and urine tests performed by a competent veterinarian are required in order to make such a determination.
Once she finally got around to doing so, Mackie made a simply terrible decision by taking Mr. Mistoffelees to the Leonard Brother Veterinary Clinic where practitioner Andy Nelson, if press reports are credible, totally botched the job of saving his life. He first sedated the kitten and then attempted to induce vomiting so as to force his digestive tract to expel the pollen from his kidneys and other internal organs.
While he was in the process of doing that, Misty suffered a heart attack but Nelson, inexplicably, did not have any adrenaline on hand. As a result, he abandoned the helpless kitten on his deathbed while he went to scrounge around for some.
Before he hightailed it out of the operating theatre, however, he fobbed off the traumatic job of administering last-ditch chest compressions to the rapidly dying kitten onto the already sagging shoulders of Mackie. The only logical conclusion to be drawn from that absolutely shocking deviation from normal veterinary protocol is that Leonard Brother is not only too cheap to maintain a supply of adrenaline but also to employ trained veterinary assistants as well.
"I massaged his chest as shown by the vet in a bid to save him while he got the adrenaline but unfortunately we couldn't revive him," she confided to the Daily Mail. "I was devastated."
The official cause of death has been listed as a combination of kidney and liver failure. If a necropsy had been performed, it perhaps would have been able not only to have pinpointed exactly what killed him but also to have determined how much and what form of lily toxicity was present in his tiny body. Since it has not been disclosed what was done with his remains, that is a strong indication that they likely were burned so it is way too late now for conducting such a probe.
Unwilling to own up to his own incompetence, Nelson did the next best thing which was to pack off all the blame for Mr. Mistoffelees' untimely death on Mackie. "This is the second cat in the last year that I have seen die from lilies just because the owner did not know that they were dangerous to cats," he shamelessly pontificated to the Daily Mail. "I'm amazed at the number of people who simply do not know how deadly they can be for cats, as they are popular pets and lilies are popular flowers -- but the two just cannot go together."
Those same arguments easily could be turned around and applied with even greater force to the pompous and hypocritical Nelson. First of all, since he already was intimately familiar with lily poisoning he should have readily recognized the grave danger that Mr. Mistoffelees was in and accordingly pulled out all the stops in a race against the clock in order to have saved him. Secondly, he should at the very least have had both adrenaline and an assistant ready at hand.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is far too much of a laughingstock as an oversight body for Mackie to waste her precious time and money by lodging a formal complaint with it against Nelson, but she should find another veterinarian if she should decide in the future to acquire a replacement for Misty. (See Cat Defender post of June 17, 2010 entitled "A Veterinarian Gets Away with Almost Killing Felix but Is Nailed by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for Not Paying Her Dues.")
It therefore is anything but surprising that the entire affair from start to deathbed finish has made an emotional wreck out of Mackie. "It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life as he was just a baby and I was there trying to save him like that," she confided to the Daily Mail. "It was awful."
Absolutely no one, except cat-haters, could possibly disagree with her on that point but her suffering certainly did not end with Misty's death; au contraire, she has been left with enough regrets in order to last her for a lifetime. "Had I known that lilies were so deadly to cats I would never had them in my house," she vowed to the Daily Mail.
Considering their popularity and ubiquity, lilies surely must claim countless lives each year and yet very little is either spoken or written about the dangers that they pose to cats. That is so much the case that in recent memory only one other case comes readily to mind and it concerned a white Maine Coon cat named Haggis from parts unknown but presumably somewhere in the United Kingdom.
As was the case with Mr. Mistoffelees, the trouble began when some acquaintances of his unidentified owners presented them with a bouquet of lilies. Like Mackie, they placed them in a vase on a windowsill and some of the yellow pollen collected in Haggis' fur when he inadvertently brushed up against them while peering out through the glass. Not only were they also ignorant of just how deadly the pretty flowers are to cats, but they initially even thought that he looked rather comical covered in yellow pollen.
Mercifully, it belatedly dawned upon them that the lilies just might possibly be toxic to cats and once their suspicions were confirmed by an online search their initial amusement quickly gave way to panic. With no time left to spare, they immediately washed the pollen out of his fur in the shower and then rushed him to a veterinarian. Unfortunately, the only thing that the practitioner was willing to do for him was to place him on intravenous fluids so as to prevent the onset of dehydration and kidney failure.
That unidentified professional apparently neither attempted to induce vomiting nor to soak up any residual toxins left in his stomach by prescribing activated charcoal. His distraught owners were simply told to be patient and to hope for the best.
|Haggis Is Only One of a Handful of Cats to Have Survived Lily Pollen|
He remained at the surgery for two days but when he failed to exhibit any outward signs of lily toxicity he was allowed to return home. That was a few years ago and thanks to the timely intervention of his guardians he apparently, unlike Misty, never had time to lick off any of the pollen and for that reason is still alive today.
His close brush with death nevertheless has had a profound effect upon his caretakers. "It was a terrible feeling to know that because of your own stupidity your cat could have died," the owners told International Cat Care (ICC) of Tisbury in Wiltshire on September 7, 2015. (See "Keeping Cats Safe -- Lilies.") "Since that day no flower or plant is allowed in our home."
Haggis accordingly can be counted as one of the fortunate few. "The unusual thing about the case of Haggis is that the outcome was good, which sadly is often not the case," Claire Bessant of ICC told Your Cat Magazine of Grantham in Lincolnshire on September 17, 2015. (See "Cat Has Lucky Escape from Lily Poisoning.") "Many owners are still unaware of the dangers of lilies to their cats and cats often die as a result of poisoning."
Even in saying that much she is drastically understating the case. For example, not only is the pollen itself toxic but so, too, are the flowers, leaves, and stems. Why, just even drinking the water from the vases in which they are displayed is sufficient in order to kill a cat.
Moreover, since consumption of less than one leaf can be fatal to a cat, the same is likely true in regard to the pollen itself in that licking up just a few particles of it could conceivably cause renal failure. Because of their tender years and considerably smaller internal organs, young kittens, such as Mr. Mistoffelees, are especially ill-equipped to cope with the devastating consequences of lily toxicity.
There additionally are a wide variety of lilies that are lethal to cats. For instance in the article cited supra, ICC enumerates the following sub-species of Lilium (true lily) as being toxic to cats: Lilium asiatica (Asiatic lily), Lilium asiatica americana (Asiatic-American lily), Lilium candidum (Madonna lily), Lilium hydridum (Japanese showy lily), Lilium lancifolium (Tiger lily), Lily longiforum (Easter lily), Lilium orientalis Stargazer lily (Oriental lily), Lilium regale (Royal lily), Lilium speciosum, Lilium rubrum (Rubrum lily), and Lilium umbellatum (Western or Wood lily). Also, all species of Hemerocallis (Day lilies) are included in that roll call of deadly flowers.
Complicating matters further, there are other closely related plants which can sicken cats without causing kidney failure. Chiefly among these are calla or arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and peace lilies (Spathiphyllum species) that contain crystals which can inflame the mouth and digestive tract and thus cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Another plant to watch out for is lily of the valley (Convalaria majalis) which can cause irregular heartbeats and precipitate drops in blood pressure which in turn can lead to the onset of seizures and comas in cats. (See PetMD. com, undated article entitled "Lily Poisoning in Cats.")
For its part, Cats Protection of Haywards Heath in Sussex also warns against poinsettias which if consumed by cats can lead to diarrhea and cramps. Rhododendron and daffodil bulbs are an even greater concern because in addition to sickening cats they also can kill them.
Rather than trying to remember all of that, it would be far preferable to follow the sage advice of Haggis' chastened owners and to refrain from keeping any plants at all indoors. At the very least, owners would be well advised to determine beforehand if a particular plant is hazardous to cats before allowing it indoors.
Oddly enough, outdoor lilies do not appear to pose nearly as much of a threat because most cats prefer to chew on grass. The wind, dew, and rain also helps to disperse the pollen that accumulates on their flowers, leaves, and stems. If that were not the case, there surely would be dead cats everywhere.
Nevertheless, outdoor lilies likely are responsible for a good deal more feline deaths each year than it generally is acknowledged. That is because some cats crawl off and hide once they believe that the end is near and their corpses are never found. Secondly, the owners of even those that return home in order to die seldom request necropsies and as a result the cause of their deaths remains a mystery.
It accordingly would be a good idea for owners as a cautionary measure to remove all lilies and other poisonous plants from their properties. Unfortunately, there is not a great deal that they can do about neighbors who insist upon planting lilies in their gardens in order to purposefully harm and kill cats.
Even more worrisome, horticulturists and the likes of Ted "Slick Willie" Williams and the National Audubon Society most assuredly would not hesitate for so much as a split-second to plant lilies in order to intentionally kill cats. (See Cat Defender posts of August 19, 2010 and May 18, 2013 entitled, respectively, "Music Lessons and Buggsey Are Murdered by a Cat-Hating Gardener and an Extermination Factory Posing as an Animal Shelter in Saginaw" and "Ted Williams and the National Audubon Society Issue a Call for Cats to Be Poisoned with Tylenol® and Then Try to Lie Out of It.")
Mackie therefore can be forgiven her ignorance about lilies but her abject neglect of Mr. Mistoffelees is an altogether different matter. Like so many individuals in general and working people in particular, she fell for the myth disseminated by the likes of the flatheads at the University of Lincoln that cats are self-sufficient beings who can take care of themselves. (See Cat Defender post of October 9, 2015 entitled "A Lynch Mob of Dishonest Eggheads from the University of Lincoln Issues Another Scurrilous Broadside Against Cats by Declaring That They do Not Need Guardians in Order to Safeguard Their Fragile Lives.")
In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth in that cats are considerably more difficult to properly care for than dogs and other animals. That is because they not only face far more dangers but also have many more enemies as well. As a consequence, it is imperative that both domesticated cats as well as those that reside in managed TNR colonies have attentive and conscientious guardians.
Far too many individuals think and behave like Mackie in that it is customary for them to routinely lock their cats indoors and then to forget all about them while they go out and chase shekels and romance. Since they consequently rarely ever see them except at bedtime and breakfast, it often is too late in order to save them once they suddenly become either sick, injured, or lost.
It is an entirely different scenario with attentive owners who actually spend considerable time with their cats. For example, during the latter half of 2010 a cat-hater in New Westminster, British Columbia, dunked at least three cats in turpentine.
Corrine Ritchie's cat Linden and Rob Stainton's resident feline Vincent survived because they discovered what had happened to them before they had time in order to lick off very much of the deadly corrosive from their fur. Lamentably, Jennifer Szoke did not reach her cat, Harley, in time. (See Cat Defender posts of July 30, 2010, August 30, 2010, and January 3, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Harley Suffers Severe Burns to His Tongue and Mouth as Well as Lung Damage after He Is Deliberately Dunked in Turpentine," "Hope, Prayer, and Veterinary Intervention Ultimately Prove to Be Insufficient in Order to Save Harley after He Is Deliberately Dunked in Turpentine," and "Another Cat, Vincent, Is Dunked in Turpentine in New Westminster as the Police and Animal Control Continue to Laugh Up Their Dirty Sleeves.")
Like Mackie, twenty-five-year-old Aidan Moreau-MacLeod spends the lion's share of his time at Bar Negroni in the Little Italy section of Toronto where he slings swill in addition to being co-owner. As a result, he was nowhere to be found when a police dog mauled his eighteen-year-old cat McGuire during the early morning hours of June 4th of last year.
Fortunately, his father discovered McGuire's desperate condition when he returned home later that evening and subsequently rushed him to a veterinarian. The younger Moreau-MacLeod was extremely fortunate on that occasion because McGuire easily could have died from his untreated wounds while he was away from home lining his pockets. (See Cat Defender post of July 2, 2015 entitled "After Allowing One of Their Police Dogs to Maul McGuire to Within an Inch of His Life, the Toronto Police Do Not Have Even the Common Decency to Summon Veterinary Help for Him.")
|Flurbiprofen Topical Analgesic|
It therefore is entirely conceivable that if Mackie had been home watching over Mr. Mistoffelees that she could have saved him if she had gotten him away from the lilies in a timely fashion and promptly dunked him a bathtub in order to have removed the pollen from his fur. She also is guilty, like seemingly everybody else nowadays, of wasting precious time online when she instead should have been on her way with him to a veterinarian.
Although there is not any dearth of knowledge pertaining to the dangers posed by both human and animal predators, motorists, and other cretins to cats that live outdoors, Mackie also is remiss for failing to realize that indoor environments are not necessarily all that much more conducive to promoting feline health, well-being, and longevity. In addition to a lack of exercise space, mental stimulation, and a denial of the fellowship of other cats, indoor environments cannot be reached by the life-giving rays of Old Sol and they circulate primarily old, stale, and polluted air.
They also contain toxins other than lilies, such as cigarette smoke and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). (See Cat Defender posts of October 19, 2007 and August 22, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Smokers Are Killing Their Cats, Dogs, Birds, and Infants by Continuing to Light Up in Their Presence" and "Indoor Cats Are Dying from Diabetes, Hyperthyroidism, and Various Toxins in the Home.")
Furthermore, whereas it is well understood that both prescription and over-the-counter medications should be kept far out of the reach of cats at all times, the same also holds true for the treated areas and surrounding clothing of individuals who use topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). For example, last spring the Federal Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine in Rockville, Maryland, reported that flurbiprofen, which also contains the muscle relaxer cyclobenzaprine as well as baclofen, gabapentin, lidocaine, and prilocaine, had been responsible for the deaths of three domestic cats and renal failure in two others that survived thanks to timely veterinary intervention. (See FDA press release of April 17, 2015 entitled "Flurbiprofen-Containing Topical Pain Medications: FDA Alert -- Illnesses and Deaths in Pets Exposed to Prescription Topical Pain Medication.")
The alert does not specify how the cats came into contact with the painkiller, only that their owners applied lotions and creams containing it to their necks and feet. It nevertheless would stand to reason that the cats licked it off either their owners' bodies or clothing. As is the case with lilies, it only takes a very minute amount of flurbiprofen in order to cause kidney failure and death in cats.
Other mundane, yet lethal, hazards to be found in the home include plastic trash bags, electric recliners, and furniture imported from China and, presumably, elsewhere that contain the mold and mildew retardant dimethyl fumarate (DMF). (See Cat Defender posts of September 24, 2015 and October 21, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Henry Is Saved by Cats Protection after Swallowing Part of a Plastic Trash Bag but His Fate Would Have Been Entirely Different if He Had Fallen into the Clutches of the Mercenaries at PennVet" and "Two Thoughtless Old Biddies Crush Thirteen-Month-Old Sheba to Death Underneath an Electric Recliner," plus The Telegraph of London, December 4, 2008, "Toxic Leather Armchair Kills Father, Son, and Cat, Family Claims.")
Construction mishaps inside the home also can injure and even kill cats. (See Cat Defender posts of August 4, 2008 and September 8, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Brooklyn Man Gets Locked Up in a Nuthouse and Then Loses Digs, Job, and Honey All for Attempting to Save His Friend's Cat, Rumi" and "Bonny Is Rescued at the Last Minute after Spending Seven Weeks Entombed Underneath a Bathtub.")
Indoor cats are likewise up the spout whenever either fires or carbon monoxide leaks occur. (See Cat Defender posts of September 29, 2008 and April 23, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Kiki Is Healthy Again but in Legal Limbo as Her Rescuer, Firefighter Al Machado, Basks in the Glory of His Heroics" and "Winnie Saves an Indiana Family of Three from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.")
|Mr. Mistoffelees and Elizabeth Mackie in Happier Days|
Cats that are left home alone for extended periods of time also have little or no protection against the evil designs of housebreakers. For example on August 14, 2009, burglars broke into thirty-three-year-old Amanda Faulkner's house in Hamilton, one-hundred-thirty kilometers south of Auckland, where they broke one-year-old Nookie's pelvis, his tail in three places, and damaged his bladder by repeatedly kicking him as if he were nothing more than a football.
Faulkner did not even discover his plight until more than a day later and even then she cruelly elected to pay a veterinarian in order to finish the job that the thieves had started rather than to save his life. (See Cat Defender post of September 9, 2009 entitled "Home Alone in New Zealand, Friendly Little Nookie Is Repeatedly Kicked and Left for Dead by Vicious Burglars.")
Topping all of those concerns, cruelly cooping up a cat inside deprives it of the opportunity to ever acquire the prerequisite skills that it would require in order to survive in the real world if it one day were to suddenly find itself on its own. (See Cat Defender post of February 2, 2015 entitled "Cruelly Denatured and Locked Up Indoors for All of His Life, Nicky Is Suddenly Thrust into the Bitter Cold and Snow for Twenty-One Consecutive Days with Predictably Tragic Results.")
To her credit, Mackie has started a petition drive aimed at persuading both florists and supermarkets to put warning labels on bouquets of lilies. "I would hate for anyone else to go through what I have so I hope that our petition can at least raise awareness and if the shops do start labeling them, then that could save a lot of cats from dying a horrible death," she told the Daily Mail in the article cited supra.
Although he may have completely botched Mr. Mistoffelees' care, Nelson nonetheless wholeheartedly concurs with Mackie on that point. "It's a very simple change but (it) could save a lot of cats a very painful death from kidney failure and their owners a lot of heartache," he added to the Daily Mail.
In his 1939 poem entitled "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," T.S. Eliot said the following about Misty's illustrious namesake:
"He holds all the patent monopolies
For performing surprising illusions
And creating eccentric confusions
And at legerdemain
He'll defy examination
And deceive you again
The greatest magicians have something to learn
From Mr. Mistoffelees' conjuring turn."
It accordingly is truly regrettable that little Misty did not possess just a tiny bit of the original's conjuring prowess. If he had done so, he might then have been able to have risen from his deathbed or, better still, to have avoided the lilies altogether.
What is done is done, however, and it is way too late to do anything for him now. Ironically, the terrible memories of his needless death are destined to long outlive his brief sojourn upon this earth and there simply is not any way that ever can be construed as being anything other than grotesquely unfair and unjust.
Photos: the Daily Mail (Mr. Mistoffelees covered in pollen and Nelson), the London Metro (Misty at play and with Mackie), Your Cat Magazine (Haggis), International Cat Care (Lilium and Hemerocallis), and Sri Rama Pharmaceutical of Hyderabad, India (flurbiprofen).