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Are Irises Poisonous to Cats? Keeping Your Cat Safe

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

iris flower

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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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Irises add beautiful splashes of color to your garden and indoor space, but won’t cats be drawn to these flowers? Is it safe to let your cat eat an iris flower?

No, it’s definitely not safe to allow your cat to eat any part of an iris — they are considered toxic and can make your cat ill.

Here, we take a closer look at the iris and what makes them poisonous for cats. We also cover tips on keeping your cat safe when around these flowers.

A Little About the Iris

The iris is a beautiful perennial plant that grows from a bulb or rhizome (a type of bulb). It is also known as a water flag, flag, and snake lily. It ranges in height anywhere from 3 inches to 4 feet, depending on the species, of which there are about 300.

The iris comes in a wide variety of colors, which helps explain why they were named after Iris, the Greek goddess that was the personification of the rainbow. There are irises in shades from white to black and everything in-between, but the most common colors are purple, lavender, yellow, and white.

The most popular iris hybrid by far is the bearded iris, but the Siberian, Japanese, Louisiana, and Dutch are all popular too. They can be found growing in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Iris Flower Close up
Image Credit: pixel2013, Pixabay

Why Is the Iris Toxic to Cats?

Both the Pet Poison Helpline and ASPCA have listed the iris as toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. The toxic component in the iris is the pentacyclic terpenoids, which can be found in every part of the plant but are the most concentrated in the rhizomes and bulbs.

The toxicity of the iris is listed as mild to moderate but can cause a certain amount of discomfort for your cat.

What Are the Symptoms of Iris Poisoning?

The following symptoms are common for many cats that have ingested a toxic plant:

How severe the symptoms are will depend on how much of the iris your cat ate or if the bulb was eaten, since that’s where the toxin is more concentrated. However, if your cat starts exhibiting any of these signs, speak to your vet right away, especially if you know that the plant has been eaten.

shorthair cat lying on table, looking sad
Image Credit: 9lnw, Shutterstock

What Are Your Next Steps?

You’ll first need to determine what is making your cat sick if you didn’t actually see them eat an iris. Check the plant for any signs of being chewed, and check your cat’s mouth and teeth for plant matter.

Whether your cat is sick from eating a plant or anything else, you’ll want to take them to your veterinarian. You should bring part of the plant with you, particularly if you’re not sure what kind of plant it is (if it wasn’t an iris), as this will ensure that your vet can provide your cat with the right treatment.

What Is the Treatment for Iris Poisoning?

Your vet first needs to diagnose the poisoning with a physical exam and by examining the plant that you’ve brought with you. The vet will check your cat’s mouth for ulcers.

Once your vet has determined that your cat has been poisoned by an iris or if there is a high degree of suspicion, they will begin treatment. They could start by flushing your cat’s mouth and throat with water to remove any excess toxins or may induce vomiting if recently ingested. If your cat has suffered from stomach upset and lost fluids through all the vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea, your vet might also administer IV fluids to rehydrate your cat.

If the vomiting and diarrhea are still ongoing, your cat will probably be given medication to help to stop it. In cases where the cat has eaten a large amount of the plant, the vet might pump the stomach to remove the excess. In most cases, activated charcoal could be given to your cat, which is effective at absorbing the toxins.

cat on a drip in a vet clinic
Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock

Recovery From Iris Poisoning

Your cat might need to spend the night at the clinic so the vet can continue to monitor your cat’s health. This depends on how bad the poisoning was. You can expect to take your cat back to the clinic for follow-up visits until your cat has recovered.

On your part, you need to give your cat time to heal and to follow all your vet’s instructions. Ensure that the environment at home is as stress-free as possible by keeping things as calm and quiet as you can throughout the recovery process. Be sure to provide plenty of love and cuddles if your cat comes looking for them.

close up of calico cat
Image Credit: Svetlbel, Pixabay

How to Avoid Iris Poisoning

The easiest solution is to just get rid of your irises and any other plants that are on the ASPCA’s toxic plants list.

However, if you are keeping any irises indoors as cut flowers or in a container, consider placing them in a room that is off-limits to your cat. Or you can hang them from the ceiling or hanger that is out of your cat’s reach.

Be sure to keep an eye on the plant and do any necessary maintenance, such as removing dying or dead leaves and flowers before they drop to the ground.

If the irises are outside and so is your cat, consider removing them from your garden because it is probably not possible for you to constantly monitor your cat when they’re outside.

Otherwise, think about creating a cat-friendly garden that contains catnip and cat grass, as well as a fountain and a sand-filled litter box. This area could help keep your cat away from your other plants.

Yet another option is to set up a few deterrents, such as sprinkling coffee grounds or spraying a mixture of cayenne pepper and water around your irises. You can also place a cage or netting around the plants.

Conclusion

If you decide to get rid of your irises, there are many other cat-friendly flowers that you can consider replacing them with:

  • Freesias
  • Gerber daisies
  • Asters
  • Snapdragons
  • Orchids
  • Roses
  • Madagascar jasmine

While these flowers are generally safe for cats, it’s still best to not let your cat eat them. It just means you won’t have to rush your cat to the vet if they nibble on them.

If your cat has ingested anything toxic, contact your vet immediately. Or you can call the Animal Poison Control at 1-888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661.


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