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How to Create a Pet-Friendly Garden

Cat laying with flowers

Imagine sitting in your garden enjoying a cup of tea as you read your favorite novel. You look over to see your cat tearing up your chrysanthemums and your dog digging up the rose bushes. This scenario is awful enough to make you leap up from your chair and send your tea flying for a couple of reasons. 

Not only are your furry friends destroying your beautiful garden, but those chrysanthemums are toxic to dogs and cats. Unless you plan to never let your pets outside, it's time to push pause on that novel and read these tips for creating a pet-friendly garden.

Tips to Make Your Garden Pet-Friendly

Making a garden pet-friendly doesn’t have to be difficult. There’s no need to overthink things, but you do need to be intentional with how you plan the space and what you include in it.

1. Choose Non-Toxic Plants

Choosing safe plants for your pet is the most important part of planning your garden. Many flowers, herbs, and other foliage are toxic to pets. Certain plants, like chrysanthemums, are mildly toxic, leading to gastrointestinal issues, like diarrhea or vomiting. Others, like the popular sago palm, cause severe health issues and can be fatal.

As you decide what to plant, research carefully to uncover which plants are unsafe and look for alternatives. If you are unsure about a particular plant and can’t find a definite answer, consult your vet. When there’s no way of knowing about the safety, err on the side of caution, and don’t plant it.

2. Use Raised Garden Beds to Keep Out Small Pups

If you have small dogs, raised beds could discourage them from eating (and digging up) flowers (unless they’re super jumpers). However, raised gardens won’t protect plants from large dogs or cats that can easily reach them. 

Adding a barrier or unappealing plants, like rosemary, can make the garden less tempting for your furry friends. Make sure the plants you choose grow well in a raised bed and use the appropriate soil.

3. Find Pet-Safe Mulch

In addition to choosing non-toxic plants for pets, verify that the other items you use in your garden are safe for dogs and cats. Some mulches, like cocoa mulch or those treated with various chemicals, include components that are poisonous to pets. 

Other types of mulch lead to injuries or have serious consequences, even if they aren’t toxic. For example, wood mulch contains sharp pieces that could cut your dog’s mouth and throat. Wood and rubber mulch also pose choking hazards or potential bowel obstructions.

When purchasing mulch, read the label carefully for any warnings regarding pets. If the mulch does not specify that it is safe for pets, choose another option.

4. Set Up a Designated Dig Zone

Once you take precautions to safeguard your pets from your garden, it’s time to protect your plants from your pets. If your dog loves to dig, you don’t have to stop their fun. Instead, create a designated dig area and train them to use it.

A dig zone could be a kiddie pool or sandbox full of dirt or sand or a sectioned-off area of your yard. Include a few of your dog's favorite toys to entice them to the spot. Reward them with praise and a tasty treat when they use it. Rewarding the desired behavior reinforces your pet’s decision to dig in the specified area instead of in your garden.

5. Put Chicken Wire in Your Garden

To keep curious kitties out of the garden, lay down chicken wire before planting. Cats (and many pups) don’t like stepping on pointy, uncomfortable surfaces, so this extra step helps teach them to stay away. The chicken wire also helps discourage digging.

Prep the area with weed or landscape cloth and secure it with garden stakes. Lay the chicken wire on top, and use wire snips to cut out holes large enough for the plants. Spread a layer of mulch over the wire and place stones or decorative bricks on the corners to keep it in place.

6. Plant Mature Plants

Give your garden a fighting chance against curious and playful pets by starting with mature plants. Established plants are stronger and develop roots faster, making them more capable of withstanding a few run-ins with your fur baby. Larger plants also provide a better visual cue, making it easier for pets to dodge them mid-run.

7. Use Borders to Keep Pets Out of the Garden

Installing a fence is one of the most common ways to keep pets secure inside your backyard. Take that same concept and apply it to your garden. Plant your garden in a separate area of your yard and fence around it. Or use garden borders to dissuade dogs and cats from coming any closer.

8. Make Paths Using Your Dog's Tracks

This tip takes a cue from the famous saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Are you tired of your dog trampling through the same tulips? Instead of trying to stop them, take note of where your dog likes to traverse as they explore the yard.

You’ll likely pick up on a common path. Carve out a designated pathway for your pup letting their tracks be your guide. Put stones, gravel, or pet-friendly mulch over these areas and plant flowers, bushes, and other foliage around them.

9. Provide Shady Spots for Your Pets

It’s wonderful to let your pets spend time with you outside, but the plants aren’t the only things that need to be pet-friendly. It’s also important to pay attention to the elements, primarily the sun and heat. Dogs and cats get affected by intense temperatures just as humans do. 

Therefore, protect pets from heatstroke, which is a life-threatening condition, by providing several shady spots throughout the garden. Shady options are trees, canopies, awnings, umbrellas, a gazebo, or set up a catio or doghouse in a dedicated pet zone.

10. Train Your Pet to Use a Dedicated Potty Spot

Another way to protect your garden from your pets is to ensure they don’t use your flower beds as a bathroom. Train your pet to use a particular spot for their business, whether it’s a potty turf or an outdoor litter box. 

However, if you expect your cat to use it, keep a litter scoop handy to clean up messes immediately. It’s also important to ensure other animals can’t access the box, perhaps setting it up inside a catio or other area that only your kitty can access.

Dog in flower bed

Enjoy Your Garden with Your Pet

It’s time to enjoy a beautiful garden and the company of your best furry friend without worry. You just need to take a few extra steps to keep animals and plants safe. Then you can stop and smell the roses instead of worrying about replanting them. 

Pet-friendly plants and flowers are a must, and training your pet to use designated paths, dig areas, and potty spots keeps your time in the garden stress-free. For more tips on creating a happy, safe, comfortable home for your pets, check out the rest of the Neater Pets blog. Spend time scrolling through helpful tidbits as you kick back in your garden with another cup of tea.


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