Gardens are a great place for pet adventures! Having an enriching environment to spend time in can increase your pet’s wellbeing. Who doesn’t love watching a dog scooting around chasing a ball on a lawn?
As garden owners though, we don’t always want our pets to have too much fun! We hear many stories of dogs eating plants that aren't good for them, nosing through the mulch in garden beds, digging holes for bones and flattening precious flowers.
Here are a few things to think about when planning a garden that will be inhabited by your furry friend.
Establishing a lawn can be tough when you have a pet in residence. Turf is easier to get going than seed, unless you can find a way to keep them off the area long enough for it to really thicken up.
Burn patches on your lawn caused by dog urine can be really annoying. Recently we found this product, Dog Rocks, which you place in your dog’s water bowl (it’s safe for cats too, but doesn’t seem to work on cat urine the same way). It is simply a naturally occurring paramagnetic igneous rock that filter things like tin and nitrates out of the dogs water. This, in turn, reduces the burn patches you get on your lawn.
Be strategic with your planting
There are some plants you can use strategically in the garden to either attract or distract your pets around the garden.
Pets need areas where they can go to seek shelter. Plant shade trees so they have somewhere cool to rest in summer. Dogs love to lie in the dirt to keep cool on hot days, so a little patch of soil under a shade tree will be much appreciated.
If on the other hand you want to keep your dog out of a section of your garden, you could plant Plectranthus caninus (Dog Bane) which has a very strong scent that many dogs reportedly do not like (and some humans too so have a smell of it before you plant it to make sure you can live with it!)
To stop your dogs from digging, reducing the amount of bare soil surfaces may discourage them. Growing dense ground covers, or applying mulch might help.
Create a cat pleasure zone
There are some plants that cats absolutely love. Try planting these to give your cat a pleasure zone in the garden:
Nepeta cataria (Catnip) has a strong smell for cats that is similar to pheromones, and cats love to roll around in it.
Nepeta x faassenii (Catmint) is a lovely plant in it’s own right, and will keep your cat feeling happy and content.
Teucrium marum (Cat Thyme) is another plant that cats can be attracted to, it has a lovely pink flower and a strong smell. Is not a culinary herb as are other thymes.
Cat grass - eating cat grass helps a cat’s digestive system. There are a few types of grasses that cats can eat - Dactylis glomerata, Avena sativa, Hordeum vulgare, and Triticum aestivum.
Be aware of toxins
Weed killers, insecticides and snail bait can be toxic to animals, so use them with extreme caution. When spraying weeds, wait until the product has dried on the plants before letting your animals back into the area.
A word of caution on snail bait
Traditional snail baits contain Metaldehyde and Methiocarb which can cause illness in dogs and to a lesser extent, cats (only because they don’t seem as attracted to eating it as dogs are). These baits are made to be extremely palatable to snails and slugs, but unfortunately they are also very attractive to our pets.
There is a somewhat less toxic alternative on the market, in which the active ingredient is iron phosphate. Take care with this though, while it is considered safe, it can still cause problems if your animal eats large amount of it. If in any doubt, best not use it anywhere that your pet has access to and don’t store the product anywhere that your pet might find it.
You might be surprised to find that your compost bin can be a very dangerous place for your pets. Consumption of bacteria on mouldy items can cause illness, seizures and tremors, so keep your compost bin away from your pets, or make sure it is securely closed.
Organic fertilisers, composts and mulches are generally pretty safe for pets, but things like blood and bone, or poultry manure can smell quite interesting and you might find they can’t resist digging around in the garden after you fertilise.
We are often asked whether a plant might be toxic to their pets. There are many plants that contain chemicals that can cause poisoning – too many to list here - but there are some popular plants that people commonly have in their gardens that can be toxic to pets. These include:
Some fruit trees such as apples, apricots (make sure you remove the fruit before it drops onto the ground)
Lillies (very toxic for cats)
While a lot of plants are toxic, there is another list similarly as long of plants that aren’t toxic, so owning a pet doesn’t mean that you are not able to have a beautiful and safe garden.
A very comprehensive resource when checking plant toxicity is the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is a very useful tool when planning your pet friendly garden.
Good luck on creating your pet safe garden oasis. As always, if you would like advice please don’t hesitate to ask any of our team for assistance.