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Cats' toxic reaction to Lily pollen, Poinsettias, Onion,Garlic, Raisins, Chocolate and anti-freeze. Updated and indexed.

Updated on September 3, 2016
Jemima and Jeeves - both hate lilies !
Jemima and Jeeves - both hate lilies !
Toxic lilies for cats
Toxic lilies for cats
Protect both cats and dogs from toxic foods
Protect both cats and dogs from toxic foods
Longi lilies seriously toxic
Longi lilies seriously toxic
Onions and garlic very toxic
Onions and garlic very toxic
Toxic foods for cats
Toxic foods for cats
Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard
Liver - Excess Vit A for cats
Liver - Excess Vit A for cats
Tuna - Excess results in lack Vit E
Tuna - Excess results in lack Vit E

As the majority of cat owners will know Lilies and their pollen are extremely dangerous for cats. All types of lily should be considered toxic but there are some that are particularly deadly. In no particular order, the most dangerous types of lily are the Tiger Lily (Lilium Tigrinum), Day Lily (Hemerocalis), Stargazer Lily (Lilium Orientalis), Easter Lily (Lilium Longiflorum), Rubrum Lily (Lilium Speciosum), Japanese Show Lily (Lilium Lancifolium), and Asiatic lilies. Although beautiful they are best to avoid altogether, but if you feel you must, take care when introducing any type of lily into your home or garden and discretely check if any of your neighbours have them or they are accessible within the cat’s usual territory.

Contrary to popular belief it is not just the pollen which is toxic. Cats may be poisoned if they eat any part of the plant or flowers, (all parts of the plant are considered to be toxic for cats). Sometimes it is difficult to keep them away as the natural curiosity of kittens make them especially prone to being poisoned in this way as they explore and chew things in their environment. Older cats are often affected simply because they brush against the flower and get pollen on their coats. Later they will lick the pollen off, ingesting it as they clean their fur.

It is important to quickly recognise the signs of poisoning which includes vomiting, weight loss, and depression within only a few hours after ingestion of the plant or parts of the plant. The initial vomiting may stop shortly then resume anything up to 3 days later. Other symptoms of lily poisoning include paralysis or partial paralysis, respiratory problems, seizures and swollen paws or face. The most serious problem with this type of poisoning is renal failure which is a life threatening condition. Even cats that survive lily poisoning may be left with chronic renal problems and sometimes pancreatitis.

If you see or even suspect that your cat may have eaten any part of a lily you should seek veterinary attention as quickly as possible. The treatment is to induce vomiting if the plant was recently eaten, then dosing activated charcoal which will help reduce the toxic effects. The primary treatment involves supporting the kidneys with intravenous fluids, and this may need to be continued for some time.

Just to illustrate how serious the problem can be there is a recorded case in the UK in which a cat who just brushed past pollen from oriental stargazer lilies and licked it from her fur immediately became violently ill and died within hours after going blind, suffering renal failure and becoming paralysed.

In the event that the damage has not been too severe, cats can be saved if taken to a vet no later than six hours from becoming ill from lily pollen, however the chances of survival decrease rapidly after that. If it is longer than 18 hours renal failure is likely to have occurred and the kidneys will most likely have ceased to function.

Diagnosing Lily Toxicity

Epithelial casts will be visible in the urine (by microscopic examination) in as few as 12 hours after ingestion of this plant. Increased blood levels of BUN, creatinine and potassium will be seen 18 - 24 hours after ingestion. Prompt veterinary care is essential. Cats treated 18 hours or longer after ingestion have a very poor prognosis.

Treatment for Lily Toxicity

Treatments are very aggressive, IV fluid therapy and protection of the gastrointestinal tract. Subcutaneous, also known as SubQ, fluids are not effective. Mortality rate has been reported as high as 100% with lily toxicity if untreated or treated later than 18 hours after exposure. Early, aggressive treatment by a veterinarian has a good prognosis.

In the cases of lily poisoning in cats I have researched over the years, sadly, at least half of them died or was put to sleep because the damage was so severe.

In my personal opinion, the warnings on lilies sold in florists are not obvious enough. Sometimes labels may carry a single note such as “Lily pollen is harmful to cats if eaten”, but this does not really convey the seriousness of the situation or advise the buyer that immediate action may be needed. Some supermarket lilies have had the pollen bearing parts removed, but this does not change the fact that all parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten rather than just brushed against.

Poinsettias are not the deadly flowers that many believe them to be. These red plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are part of the family known as spurges. A little bit of history -during the 1820s Joel Robert Poinsett, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, first brought poinsettias to the U.S. from a Mexico. The myth of the plant’s toxicity began to circulate in early 20th century when a two-year-old child was alleged to have died after consuming a poinsettia leaf.

This spawned a highly exaggerated rumour concerning the toxic potential of poinsettia. Actually, poinsettia ingestions typically results in only mild to moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation, which may include excess saliva, vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Keeping this plant out of the reach of your pet or child to avoid stomach upset is still a good idea. However, you need not banish the poinsettia from your home for fear of a fatal exposure.

One fundamental principle with cats is that they are naturally obligate carnivores and their digestive system is designed and has evolved into dealing with proteins. Irrespective of your personal choices remember you are an omnivore and can digest both meat and vegetables whereas your cat needs primarily meat and fish.

Unusually one of the few meats that can be tolerated only in small quantities is liver. Large amounts of liver can cause Vitamin A toxicity. This affects muscles and bones and can cause abnormal bone growth, particularly noticeable on the spine and neck region. The quantity acceptable to eat reflects the normal amount that the cat would eat as a percentage of the whole animal.

You would think fish is harmless but if fed in excess, tuna or very oily fish, can lead to steatitis (Yellow Fat Disease, pansteatitis). This painful inflammatory condition results from a diet high in unsaturated fatty acids but deficient in Vitamin E. Tuna, in particular, seems addictive to cats, but should be limited to very occasional special treats only. Tuna contains little vitamin E and the excessive unsaturated fatty acids further deplete vitamin E in the body. Cats with steatitis develop flaky skin and a greasy, dull coat. They will show signs of severe pain if touched and are reluctant to move. They also lose their appetites and develop fever. If untreated, it can result in death.

Onion toxicity: - Many cat owners are unaware that onion or garlic (Allium spp.) including those that are fresh as well as those dried for use as spices are toxic when ingested by cats (more so than dogs).The actual toxins are: S-methyl cysteine sulfoxide, n-propyl disulphide, methyl disulphide, allyl disulphide. The bulbs, cloves, flowers, and stems of the garlic and onion are all poisonous

Garlic and onion are used as flavour enhancers in many foods. Some human baby foods have onion in them, and it is not recommended to feed them to pets. In dogs and cats, garlic and onion can cause Heinz body anaemia, resulting in a breakdown of the red blood cells and anaemia. The very small amounts of garlic that are present in some commercial pet foods have not been shown to cause any problems.

When ingested the cat may show symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, anaemia, discoloured urine, weakness, liver damage, allergic reactions, asthmatic attacks, and in case of skin exposure, contact dermatitis.

If you see or suspect the cat has ingested onion or garlic seek immediate veterinary attention. If dermal (skin) contact, bathe the area thoroughly and contact a vet.

Vet care - If ingested they may continue to induce vomiting, perform gastric lavage and administer activated charcoal. If dermal contact has occurred, the animal will be bathed and dried thoroughly. IV fluids will be administered to maintain hydration. The cat will be monitored and treated for liver damage and repeated blood tests will be performed to monitor for anaemia and blood transfusions will be administered if necessary.

Beets, beetroot, collard, parsley, spinach and Swiss chard are high in oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is known to lead to kidney stones and a depletion of calcium in the body. Pets that suffer from or are at risk for kidney stones, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and those whose stomach is easily irritated should certainly avoid foods with high oxalic acid content. Oxalic acid combines with calcium to create an indigestible compound.

Cats and raisins (and chocolate)

Most of us know that raisins and grapes are very toxic to dogs but there is a possibility to cats also. To leave them around is not advisable however, as raisins may cause potential fatal kidney failure in cats.

Currently, the toxic element of raisins and grapes has not been identified, although it is thought to be contained in the flesh, not the seed, of the fruit. Some animals may be more sensitive than others and the degree of reaction will depend on the amount ingested and the body weight.

Nuts - All nuts are not good for cats due to the high phosphorus content and may cause problems. Walnuts and raw and roasted macadamia nuts are reported to be particularly toxic to pets. While cats may be attracted to the oily texture of some nuts with their less effective livers, they are seriously at risk.

Chocolate may also be toxic to cats. Depending on the variety and amount ingested, chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, panting, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures—and even death in severe cases. No definitive trials have been carried out but because of its toxic potential, I would advise against allowing your cat to consume chocolate.

Cow’s milk is not suitable for cats or kittens as it contains lactose which they cannot digest. The higher the fat content the less lactose will be present. I can’t see the circumstances under which it is justified, but a little full fat cream or evaporated milk would be tolerated.

The following is an alphabetical list of plants that are also toxic to cats. Avoid having any of these as decorative or house plants and if grown in the garden be careful if your cat, (particularly kittens) have access to them.

The list is not exhaustive but covers the less common flowering plants and vegetables that your cat may come into contact with.

Adam-and eve, African Evergreen, African Wonder Tree, Agapanthus, Alfalfa, Alligator Pear, Almond stones, Alocasia, Aloe, Aloe Vera, Amaryllis, Ambrosia Mexicana, American Bittersweet, American Holly, American Mandrake, American Mistletoe, American Yew, Amur, Andromeda Japonica, Angelica Tree, Angel-Wings, Anglo-Japanese Yew, Apple seeds, Apricot, Apricot stones, Arrow-Head Vine, Arum, Arum Lily, Asian Lily, Asiatic Lily, Asparagus, Asparagus Fern, Australian Ivy Palm, Australian Pine, Autumn Crocus, Avocado, Avocado stones, Azalea.

Baby Doll Ti Plant, Baby Jade, Baby's Breath, Barbados Aloe, Barbados Lily, Barbados Pride, Barbados Pride 2, Barnyard Daisy, Bead Tree, Beetroot, Begonias, Belladonna Lily, Bergamot, Bergamot Orange, Bird of Paradise, Bird of Paradise 2, Bird of Paradise Flower, Bird's Tongue Flower, Bishop's Weed, Bitter Root, Bittersweet, Black Calla, Black eyed Susan, Black Laurel, Black Nightshade, Bleeding heart, Bloodroot, Blue Bindweed, Blue Bonnet, Blue Nightshade, Bobbins, Bog onion, Boxwood, Branching Ivy, Brazilwood, Bread and Butter Plant, Broccoli , Brown dragon, Brunfelsia, Buckeye, Buckwheat, Buddhist Pine, Buddhist rosary bead, Burning Bush, Burwort, Butter cress, Buttercup.

Caffre Lily, Caladium, Calamondin Orange, Calico Bush, California Fern, California Ivy, Calla Lily, Candidum, Cape Belladonna, Cape Clivia, Cape Jasmine, Cardboard Palm, Cardinal Flower, Carnation Castor Bean, Castor Bean Plant, Castor Oil Plant, Ceriman, Chamomile, Chandelier Plant, Charming Dieffenbachia, Cherry, Cherry stones and wilting leaves, China Ball Tree, Chinaberry Tree, Chinese Evergreen, Chinese Jade, Chinese Rubber Plant, Christmas Rose, Chrysanthemums, Citrus Bergamia, Clematis, Climbing Bittersweet, Climbing Lily, Climbing Nightshade, Clivia Lily, Clivies Coffee Tree, Coleus, Collard, Common Privet, Comphor of the Poor, Coontie Palm, Cordatum, Corn Feverfew, Corn Plant, Cornstalk Plant, Country Borage, Cow parsnip, Cowbane, Crabapples, Crane Flower, Crowfoot burwort, Crown of Thorns, Cuckoo Plant, Cuckoo-pint, Cutleaf Philodendron, Cycads, Cyclamen.

Daffodil, Dahlias, Daisy Day Lilies (many varieties), Deadly Hemlock, Deadly Nightshade, Desert Azalea, Desert Rose, Devil's Ivy, Devil's Apple, Devil's Backbone, Devil's dear, Devil's Vine, Devil's Walking Stick, Dieffenbachia, Dock Dog Daisy, Dog Fennel, Dog Hobble, Dog Laurel, Dogbane Hemp, Dracaena, Dragon root, Dragon Tree, Duck's Foot, Dumbcane, Dwarf Poinciana, Dwarf Rubber Plant,

East Indian Thyme, Easter Lily, Easter Rose, Eastern Star, Eggplant, Elephant Ears, Elephant Garlic, Elephant's Ears, Emerald Feather, Emerald Fern, English Holly, English Ivy, English Yew, Eucalyptus, European Bittersweet, European Holly, Everlasting Pea, Exotica, Exotica Perfection, Exposition.

False Bittersweet, False Queen Anne's Lace, Fancy-leaved Caladium, Feather Geranium, Felonwort, Fern Palm, Fetter Bush, Fetterbush, Fiddle-Leaf, Fig Figwort, Fire Lily Flag, Flamingo Flower, Flamingo Lily, Flamingo Plant, Fleabane, Florida Beauty, Florist's Calla, Foxglove, Franciscan Rain Tree, Fruit Salad Plant, Funkia.

Garden Calla, Garden Chamomile, Garden Hyacinth, Gardenia, Garlic, Geranium-Leaf Aralia, Geraniums, Giant Dracaena, Giant Dumb Cane, Giant Hogweed, Glacier Ivy, Gladiola, Gloriosa Lily, Glory Lily, Gold Dieffenbachia, Gold Dust Dracaena, Golden Birds Nest, Golden Pothos, Golden Ragwort, Good Luck Plant, Grapefruit, Grass Palm, Greater Ammi, Green Gold Naphthysis, Green Peppers, Ground Apple, Groundsel.

Hahn's Self Branching English Ivy, Hashish, Hawaiian Ti, Hawaiian Ti Plant, Heartleaf Philodendron, Heavenly Bamboo, Hellebore, Hercules' Club, Hibiscus, Hills of Snow, Hog Apple, Holly, Horse Chestnut, Horsehead Philodendron, Horseweed, Hortensia, Hosta, House Pine, Hurricane Plant, Hyacinth, Hydrangea,

Impala Lily, Indian Apple, Indian Apple Root, Indian Bead, Indian Borage, Indian Hemp, Indian Liquorice, Indian Pink, Indian Rubber Plant, Inkberry, Iris, Ivy Arum, Ivy Bush.

Jack-in-the-pulpit, Jade Plant, Jade tree, Janet Craig Plant, Japanese Bead Tree, Japanese rubber plant, Japanese Show Lily, Japanese Yew, Jerusalem Cherry, Jerusalem oak, Jonquil.

Kaffir Lily, Kalanchoe, Kiss-me-quick, Klamath Weed, Klivia Kudu Lily.

Lace Fern, Lacy Tree Philodendron, Lady-of-the-night, Lantana, Larkspur, Laurel, Leatherflower, Leek, Lemon, Lenten Rose Lily, Lily of the Palace, Lily of the Valley, Lily-of-the-Valley Bush Lime, Lobelia, Locust, Lord-and-Ladies, Love Bean, Lucky Bean.

Madagascar Dragon Tree, Maidens Breath, Malanga, Maleberry, Manzanilla, Maratha, Marble Queen, Marijuana, Mauna Loa Peace Lily, Mayapple, Mayweed, Meadow Cabbage, Meadow Saffron, Medicine Plant, Memory root, Mexican Breadfruit, Milfoil, Militini, Milkweed, Mistletoe "American", Mock Azalea, Mole Bean Plant, Morning Glory, Morning-Noon-and-Night, Moss Rose, Mother of Millions, Mother-in-Law, Mother-In-Law Plant, Mother-in-Law's Tongue, Mountain Ivy, Mountain laurel, Mum Mustard Tree.

Naked Lady, Nandina, Narcissus, Natal Cherry, Nebraska Fern, Nectar of the Gods, Needlepoint Ivy, Nephthytis, Nicotiana, Nightshade, Norfolk Island Pine, Norfolk Pine.

Octopus Tree, Oilcloth Flower, Oleander, Onion, Orange, Orange Day Lily, Oregon Holly, Ornamental Onion, Ornamental Pepper.

Pacific Yew, Painter's Palette, Palm Lily, Panda Plant, Paper White, Paradise Tree, Paraguayan Jasmine, Parsley, Peace Lily, Peach, Peacock Flower, Pencil Cactus, Peony, Pepper Turnip, Perennial Pea, Periwinkle, Persian Lilac, Philodendron Pertusum, Pie Plant, Pieris, Pig Lily, Pigtail Plant, Pigweed, Pine tree needles, Pink Cloud, Pinks, Plantain Lily, Plum, Plumosa Fern, Podocarpus, Poinciana, Poinsettia, Poison Daisy, Poison Hemlock, Poison Parsley, Poison Parsnip, Poisonous Nightshade, Polecat Weed, Portulaca, Pothos, Prayer Bean, Precatory Bean, Prickly Ash, Prickly Elder, Pride of Barbados, Pride-of-India, Primrose, Privet, Purslane, Pusley.

Queensland nut.

Raccoonberry, Racemose asparagus, Ragwort, Ranger's Button, Red Emerald, Red Lily, Red Princess, Red Sage, Red-Marginated Dracaena, Red-margined Dracaena, Rhododendron, Rhubarb, Ribbon Plant, Ridderstjerne, Rocambole, Rock Moss, Roman Chamomile, Rosary Pea, Rose of China, Rose of Sharon, Rosebay, Rubrum Lily, Running Myrtle, Rustic Treacle.

Sabi Star, Sacred Bamboo, Saddle Leaf, Sago Palm, Saint Joseph lily, Satin Pothos, Scarlet Berry, Schefflera, Seagull, Seaside Daisy, Seminole Bead, Senecio Serpent Garlic, Seven Bark, Shamrock Plant, Shatavari, Showy Daisy, Shrub Verbena, Shrubby Bittersweet, Sierra Laurel, Silk Pothos, Silver Dollar, Silver Jade Plant, Skunk Cabbage, Skunk Weed, Snake Lily, Snake Plant, Soda Apple, Solomon's Lily, Sorrel, Southern Yew, Sowbread, Spanish Thyme, Spindle Tree, Split Leaf Philodendron, Spoonwood, Spotted Dracaena, Spotted Dumb Cane, Spotted Hemlock, Sprengeri Fern, Spring Parsley, St. John's Wort, Staggerberry, Staggerbush, Starch Root, Starch Wort, Stargazer Lily, Starleaf, Stinging Thyme, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Rose, Stoplight, Straight-Margined Dracaena, Striped Dracaena, Superb Lily, Swamp Cabbage, Sweet Pea, Sweet potato, Sweet Potato Vine, Sweet William, Sweetheart Ivy, Swiss Chard, Swiss Cheese Plant.

Tail Flower, Tansy, Taro, Taro Vine, Texas Umbrella Tree, Texas Wonder, Three-leaved Indian Turnip, Tiger Lily, Ti-Plant, Tobacco, Tomato Plant, Tree Philodendron, Tree Tobacco, Trileaf Wonder, Tropic Snow, True Aloe, True Chamomile, Trumpet Lily, Tulip, Turkey-weed.

Umbrella Leaf, Umbrella Tree.

Variable Dieffenbachia, Variegated Philodendron, Vinca, Violet Bloom, Virginia creeper, Virgin's Bower.

Wahoo, Wake Robin, Warneckei Dracaena, Warneckii, Water Flag, Water Hemlock, Water Hyacinth, Wax-Leaf, Waxwork Weather Plant, Weeping Fig, Western Yew, White Arum, White Cedar, White Heads, Wild Arum, Wild Calla, Wild Carnation, Wild Coffee, Wild Lemon, Wild Portulaca, Wild Turnip, Window Leaf Plant, Winter Cherry, Winter Fern, Winterberry, Wisteria, Wood Lily, Woody Nightshade, Yarrow, Yellow Oleander, Yellow Sage, Yew, Yew Pine, Yucca.

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, Yews (all)


The above list is based on information in the public domain and the ASPCA Toxic Plants list. Visit their site for more details about each of these plants poisonous to cats. They include photos and more info about each entry.

Cats can have weak livers and kidneys and can be affected by foods that will not affect other pets. If you suspect your cat has consumed anything toxic, then don’t delay and contact your vet immediately.

Cats are usually quite discerning about what they eat but for some unfathomable reason they have been known to drink anti-freeze (diethylene glycol) contaminated water from puddles, due to its sweetness. This is quickly fatal and will destroy the cats liver and kidneys who will fit and die in great pain. You must get the animal to a vet as rapidly as possible who will probably inject ethyl alcohol as an antidote (at a pinch use Vodka). However this treatment is not for amateurs and needs the specialist expertise of fully qualified vets. It must be realised that the prognosis is not good.

Cat Toxins

As a responsible cat owner are you aware of foods and plants that could be harmful

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© 2012 Peter Geekie


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    • Peter Geekie profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Geekie 

      3 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Abdulrazakpt

      Sorry for the delay. Your info on cat foods is most useful.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Hi. Yes, your cat may well put on a bit of weight just after spniyag but that should settle down after a few months.You do not say whether your cats are indoor cats or do they go outdoors as well. During the winter the outdoor cats put on weight whilst they laze about in the warm house but once they start spending more time outdoors again, they lose the excess' weight they have gained. We find that the indoor cats do not have such a great winter weight fluctuation as the cats which go outdoors as well. Personally, I've never found a satisfactory way of separating cats feeding to ease one cat having a special diet but if you can, good for you.Cats should always have a mix of wet and dry foods and not just one or the other. When using dry food in addition to wet food, the cat will need less of the wet food than if you just gave them wet food alone. This will help them to maintain their nutritional balance. Also, when putting out dry food, remember to ensure that the cat has a good supply of liquid as well. For dry food our cats all seem to like Iams and their coats seem to be more healthy but it is not cheap. Our cats also like Vitacat Healthy Balance(I believe this is an Aldi own brand) which is much more budget friendly and still keeps them very obviously healthy. For my current cats, these are the two dry foods I try to ensure are in the house at all times as they suit them best. However, the cats will also tolerate short spells on Go-Cat, which has a good variety of flavours to keep them interested, and Whiskas dry food but consistently turn up their noses at Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda dry foods. Over the years, and new cats, I've tried most brands and own labels but find that it is a trial and error exercise to find what suits the animals bestHope you find what your girls prefer and the youngest cat's weight settles soon.(Edited to add the essential reminder to ensure that liquid is available if dry food is used in addition to wet food.)

    • Peter Geekie profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Geekie 

      7 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Angie - I'm glad you find it useful. I still continue to find things which are harmful to cats and will publish them as they occur. I am a little alarmed to still read information advocating the use of neat essential oils topically and for ingestion. Some of the authors should know better.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 

      7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Useful, informative hub, Peter ... many thanks.

      I will be sharing it with my cat-loving friends ...


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