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Are Irises Poisonous to Cats? Common Houseplants Examined

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	Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you have cats who love eating things they shouldn’t, you know the feeling of terror you get when you discover they’ve eaten something, and you have no idea whether it’s safe. Some things kitties seem quite fond of are plants and flowers, which are common in households. While a few of these are okay for them to eat, there are a lot that aren’t safe.

One such flower is the iris. Beautiful though it may be, this flower is toxic to cats. And while the result of eating irises can range from mild to moderate symptoms, these symptoms will put your cat in a lot of discomfort. What exactly is it about the iris that makes them so bad for our four-legged friends, and what will the outcome be if eaten?

Here’s everything you need to know about iris poisoning, its symptoms, and how you can keep your cat from getting into this lovely but poisonous flower.


What Is Iris Poisoning?

Iris poisoning occurs when your cat ingests any part of the iris (although the worst part for them to eat is the bulb and rhizomes, as that is where more of the toxic components rest). What are these toxic components? They’re known as pentacyclic terpenoids (missourin, missouriensin, and zeorin, to be precise).

Ingesting these can cause tissue irritation, which can be mild to moderate depending on how sensitive your feline is to the terpenoids. These symptoms will be uncomfortable for your cat, no matter how severe, though.

Sick cat medicines
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

What Are the Symptoms of Iris Poisoning?

Iris poisoning has a handful of symptoms to watch out for, including:
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Stomach pain
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Irritation to the skin of/around the mouth

If you notice these symptoms in your kitty, get them to a vet straight away. Keep in mind that these are symptoms of many things, though. So, if you didn’t see your cat eat an iris, but these symptoms are there, your vet can still provide the necessary treatment for your cat.

Treatment for this can include inducing vomiting or washing out the mouth to get rid of poison, giving your cat fluids if they are dehydrated from throwing up, or giving your pet medication to help them stop vomiting.

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How to Keep Your Cat from Eating Irises

The safest and simplest solution to keep your cat from eating irises is to get rid of them. However, we understand you may want to keep them around. If tossing them isn’t an option, there are other ways you can keep your cat away from the plant.

If irises are indoors, you can place them way up high where your cat can’t reach them or in a room the cat isn’t allowed in. Wherever you place them, be sure you check them regularly for dropped leaves or flowers, so you can remove them before your pet can get to them.

Iris plant portrait near a wall
Image Credit: GAIMARD, Pixabay

If your irises are outdoors in a garden, it will be much harder to ensure your cat can’t eat them (unless your cat is indoor only). However, you could try spraying the irises with a mixture of water and citrus fruit (orange, lime, or lemon juice) since cats don’t enjoy the scent or smell of citrus. You could also try spraying a bit of apple cider vinegar in the soil near your plants, as cats don’t like its smell either. Or you could try putting up netting or something similar around your plants.

Another option to consider is gifting your feline a garden of its very own that contains cat-friendly plants, such as catnip or cat grass. An area of plants your pet loves could keep them away from what they shouldn’t have.

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Final Thoughts

If you have irises in your home and your cat gets into them, it could end in a very uncomfortable experience for them. Eating any part of the iris can lead to iris poisoning, resulting in gastrointestinal issues, lethargy, skin irritation, and more. If you suspect your feline has eaten an iris, get them to a vet right away for treatment. Treatment might involve making them vomit or intravenous fluids if they ate too much of the plant. Though your kitty may be miserable for a time, it should be fine after treatment.

You can also try to keep your cat out of any irises in the first place to avoid such a situation. Getting rid of this plant is the easiest way to do this, but there are other options if you are unable to do so. You can keep it out of reach or make it smell like something kitty hates. You can even set up a cat-friendly garden they can have all to themselves! With a bit of time, your pet should realize the irises are off-limits, and iris poisoning can be avoided.

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Featured Image Credit: GAIMARD, Pixabay