Pets love gardens including soft lawns, scented flowers and digging. But there are many hazards in the garden, so this post can help you to create a safer and more enjoyable garden.
Pet-Friendly Garden Basics
- Securely bin (or lock away) dangerous chemicals, oil & toxic antifreeze. Avoid fertilisers, pesticides etc.
- Remove toxic plants from the garden. You can find lists for dogs, cats, rabbits. Also Some herbs are toxic to pets including oregano, lemongrass, pennyroyal (mint), tarragon, chives (anything in the onion family), parsley, bay laurel, garden cress (and if grown illegally, cannabis). Lavender is not tolerated with all pets, and attracts insects (see natural remedies for bee stings).
- Slug pellets are toxic to pets & wildlife. Use safe humane ways to deter slugs & snails.
- Ensure BBQ skewers are packed away and remove leftover toxic food. Hot dogs & burgers often contain onion & garlic (toxic), other foods that can harm are chocolate, fruit pips & seeds, mushrooms, grapes/raising, nuts (esp. macadamia nuts), raw salmon, nutmeg, alcohol & the sweetener xylitol.
- Many plants (including yew and oak (acorn) trees are toxic to horses. Although it’s home to a native caterpillar, the weed ragwort is lethal to livestock and equines, and must be removed and disposed of, according to DEFRA laws. World Horse Welfare has good tips on prevention and dealing with it. You can also remove ragwort with a ragfork (in bright colours, to easily see in the field).
- You can find lists of toxic plants to avoid at Blue Cross for dogs & cats. Vets can sign up to VPIS, which gives access to an expert helpline, should you need specific information or advice on toxic plants. The book Leaf Supply includes a list of pet-toxic houseplants.
Landscaping Safely for Pets
- Paved areas are safer, to avoid stones and gravel getting stuck in paws, or swallowed. Trimmed nails helps.
- Avoid cocoa mulch (contains the same toxin as chocolate) rubber or pine mulch (both can choke, the latter can cause stomach punctures). Keep pets away from fresh compost (contains mould).
- Ensure pets have shady rest areas, to avoid heatstroke (even for cats).
- Choose a secure fence in solid wood or recycled plastic. If painting, use Lifetime Wood Treatment (over toxic creosote.) If you have a hedgehog highway (a hole in the fence to travel between gardens), keep it blocked for creatures vulnerable to predators.
Let Pets Play Safely in Gardens
- Never leave unattended pets with collars that could snag on balconies or fences. Keepsafe Collar (dogs) break away in emergencies (attach lead to both D-rings, to secure on walks). Kitty Collars (6 months+) are embroidered with contact/medical info and break away in emergencies (Flexitags fit flush with collars, to avoid hanging tags).
- Only let pets play with toys under supervision, using brand names like Kong (rubber) or Beco (bamboo/rice husk balls, rope balls, flyers & bones). Avoid throwing sticks.
Keep Pets Safe Near Water
- Create sloping sides for ponds (for all creatures). Keep pets away from ponds & blue/green algae (toads can also give a poison). See safer alternatives to netting.
- Even Greener & The Original Water Butt Co (small spaces) offer good butts with safety locks, to avoid open barrels and stagnant water (attracts mosquitoes).
- If not in use, cover swimming pools. If your dog swims, Doggy Docks are easier to use than ladders, and can also be used for boat platforms.
Other Pet Safety Tips
- Clean up poop immediately (does not get safer with time, can cause blindness).
- If your garden is bothered by wasps, avoid toxic citronella candles. Use Waspinator (a brown paper bag that looks like a wasp’s nests, territorial wasps will move on).
- Wash off paws after snowy walks, to remove rock salt, which can cause burns indoors at higher temperatures. Use a shovel to clear snow instead or a biodegradable EcoGrit (cereal waste – they suggest straw or sand).
- Flat Cat & Cataire make screens to stop indoor cats falling out of windows. It’s a myth that cats always ‘right themselves’ on landing.