Is your garden pet friendly?

Cherry the dog sniffs a flower

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.

Have fun!

Don’t forget to enjoy your garden! 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? Finally, while bird tables are enjoyable, it’s perhaps advisable to leave them to families who are pet-free. 

Top tips


  • Keep shed doors firmly shut and greenhouse entrances/exits blocked with mesh to prevent explorers from becoming trapped or getting into trouble with dangerous substances or sharp tools kept inside, or succumbing to heatstroke.
  • Make your garden into a pet pleasure park. Put a scratching post or two outside for cats, and why not treat your dog to
  • a sandpit so they can dig for treats? You could even provide tunnels for your bunnies.
  • Shaded areas provide great relief from the hot summer sun for all pets. Move rabbit and guinea pig hutches and runs to areas out of midday rays, and keep water supplies topped up.
  • Try to deter pets from chasing bees and wasps as stings can cause allergic reactions.
  • Lawn feed and moss killer may irritate your pet’s paws and can cause gastrointestinal upsets.
  • Keep small pet runs and hutches safe and secure from neighbourhood predators.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Avoid chemical weed killers and pesticides as they can be harmful to pets (and wildlife). Read patio cleaner manufacturer guidelines carefully.
  • Slugs and snails can be a pain but pellets are toxic to pets as well as pests. Stick to using barriers like soot, sharp sand or beer traps. Ask your vet about lungworm protection.
  • 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.


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 (blubs)
  • Foxglove (leaves and seeds)
  • Hyacinth (bulbs)
  • Ivy (whole plant)
  • Buttercups 
  • Azalea
  • Cyclamen (root)
  • Peach (stones and leaves)
  • Apples (pips)
  • Apricots (kernel)
  • Elderberry
  • Rhubarb (leaves)
— Page last updated 15/07/2020

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