Collie cross dog in garden

Pet friendly garden

Pets can be a challenge for keen gardeners but there are great opportunities to watch your cat climbing or your dog searching for hidden treats with no dug-up flowerbeds.

Safety is obviously paramount. Fences and gates must be secure so dogs can’t escape. For rabbits a secure run with a shelter on the lawn is best so your pet is safe from predators and can’t nibble garden plants. Few gardeners welcome slugs and snails and they can infect pets with lungworm. But slug pellets can be toxic – including some described as “safe” – so stick to using barriers like soot, sharp sand or beer traps.

Avoid plants that are dangerous to pets

Some plants are so dangerous that they are best avoided. Lilies – the leaves, flowers and pollen – are highly poisonous to cats even in miniscule quantities. Most crocuses are a good alternative for spring colour to daffodils, which are toxic, but avoid colchicums or autumn crocuses which can also be poisonous. Bluebells can be too, but severe poisoning is rare. Most plants that grow from bulbs and most evergreens are poisonous for rabbits.  

Choose robust plants but beware of thorns, especially at eye level. Many herbs, including rosemary, lavender and sage are good, safe choices. Other safe plants which are fairly resilient and can recover from damage include African daisy, calendula and nasturtium.     
You could create a scented garden, as some animals enjoy honeysuckle and lavender. Many cats like catnip or catmint. Not all are sensitive to the effects but the plant is sometimes chosen as a sleeping cushion.

The plants, flowers, fruit and vegetables listed below are poisonous to cats, dogs, or both animals. 

Those in bold are potentially fatal, so please take care to avoid these.

  • Lilies
  • Iris
  • Yucca
  • Leeks
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Bluebells  
  • Lupin (leaves, seeds)
  • Wild cherry tree (twigs and foliage)
  • Yew (berries and foliage)
  • Rhododendron 
  • Sweetpea (stem)
  • Onion (causes anaemia)
  • Tulips 
  • Daffodils/narcissus (bulbs)
  • Foxglove (leaves and seeds)
  • Hyacinth (bulbs)
  • Ivy (whole plant)
  • Buttercups 
  • Azalea
  • Cyclamen (root)
  • Peach (stones and leaves)
  • Apples (pips)
  • Apricots (kernel)
  • Elderberry
  • Rhubarb (leaves)

Have fun!

Don’t forget to enjoy your garden with your pet too. Here are some ways to enrich their experience of your outdoor space.

  • If you don’t have trees your cat can still climb a ladder. Put a scratching post or two in a prominent place. Cats like to sit up high, so consider platforms, but if there are lots of cats in the area provide several so a neighbour’s cat can’t glare down at your pet. 
  • How about a sand pit where your dog can dig for treats? 
  • You can provide tunnels for your bunnies to explore
  • While bird tables are enjoyable, it’s perhaps advisable to leave them to families who are pet-free

Top tips for garden safety

Here are our top tips to make your garden a safe place for them.

The winter sees our garden fence take on all kinds of weather. This can mean that winds have blown fences over, or rain has made them rot, creating gaps in your fencing. So be sure to fix any fencing in your garden to keep pets safely inside.

Find peace of mind by making sure gates and fences are secure from whiskered Houdinis. Six foot is a good height to stop most jumpers, and chicken wire placed 12 inches below ground should foil any diggers’ plans.

Make sure that your dog’s microchip details are up to date and, if they do get out of your garden, follow our advice on what to do if you’ve lost your dog.

Chemicals, like fertilisers and weed killers, are best not used.

However, if you do use these, be sure that they are pet-safe and that your pet isn’t in the garden when you do use them. 

Lawn feed and moss killer may also irritate your pet’s paws and can cause gastrointestinal upsets.

Be sure to lock all chemicals away somewhere your pet can’t reach afterwards, like in a shed or a cupboard.

Ponds are great for attracting wildlife to your garden but be sure to cover them with mesh when you’re not around to keep cats and small furries, like rabbits and guinea pigs, from falling in – we all know cats especially will be excited by those fish! 

You can also fence them off, if you’re feeling like channelling your inner landscaper. 

Make sure that any toxic plants are removed from our garden to keep our pets safe.

Choose plants carefully. Lilies are toxic to and can kill cats. Bulbs swallowed can cause gut blockages. Don’t let rabbits chew on any plant grown from a bulb or feed them cut grass. Rhododendron is a common garden plant that can be toxic to pets.

Looking for pet safe plants? Try parsley, sage and thyme for small furries, catmint and catnip for felines, and lavender, rosemary and snapdragons if you have a dog. Alternatively, try building a sensory garden for your dog.

Slugs and snails aren’t just a pain for gardeners. If eaten by your dog, they can cause lungworm. So, it’s important to get regular lungworm treatment from your vet which helps prevent this. 

Be sure to keep an eye on your four-legged friend when they’re out in the garden and, if you plan on trying to prevent slugs and snails, be careful to use slug pellets that are non-toxic for pets.

  • Try to deter pets from chasing bees and wasps as stings can cause allergic reactions
  • Keep small pet runs and hutches safe and secure from neighbourhood predators
  • Ask BBQ and party guests not to leave food, skewers or hot cooking implements within your pet’s reach. Many human foods are best avoided by pets and alcohol is a definite no-no
— Page last updated 21/10/2021

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