12 Tips for Creating a Pet-Safe Garden: Dog and Cat-Friendly Plants

Do you know which plants can potentially be harmful to your dogs, cats and other pets? Pet-friendly gardens are an important consideration for animal lovers. Here we share how you can get your dream garden without having to worry about your pet’s health.

How to create a pet-safe garden

1) Create shelter for sunny and rainy days

Using some sturdy wood and weather-resistant materials, you can design a shelter that offers your pets shade from the sun’s rays and keep them dry when rain starts pouring. There are different options to choose from when looking to create shelter:

  • A converted shed: If the shed is ventilated and insulated, your pets will be comfortable. You can even choose to add a vent or windows to regulate the temperature of the shed, then furnish it with your pets favourite toys, cushions, and a bed!
  • A playpen shelter: If you have more than one pet, it might be a good idea to build a playpen area which is sheltered. To do this, you can use fencing or panels to enclose the area, then add a tarp or a canopy over part of the pay pen, allowing your pets to have the option of shelter or sunlight. To finish, include some beds and water/food bowls for the sheltered area.
  • A dog shelter: For a more enclosed shelter, design an A-frame shelter. This will allow water to run down the shelter. Using plywood (or a similar option), build the walls and roof of the dog shelter, leaving room for a small entrance for your pets. To make sure the wood doesn’t get damp, use pet-friendly weather-resistant paint.

2) Create a designated digging spot for dogs

This can be a beneficial outlet for their natural digging impulses whilst also preserving your garden. Dogs can have an intrinsic need to dig, which might arise from comfort, smell exploration, or even energy management. A specific space gives an outlet for this behaviour, lowering the possibility of them destroying your landscaping or digging.

3) Incorporating a water element created for your pets

Creating a pet-friendly water feature can improve their outdoor experience and contribute to their overall well-being. Begin by locating a good spot in your garden that your pets can readily access. Choose a shallow basin or a mild stream design to keep the water level safe for your dogs to wade in comfortably.

Installing a recirculating pump system keeps the water fresh and prevents it from becoming stagnant. Consider placing pet-safe floating toys in the water for them to engage with to add an interesting touch. A non-slip surface surrounding the feature assures their safety while moving about. Giving your dog a dedicated water supply will help them keep hydrated, and will give them something fun to do! For more information on this, take a look at our How to Create a Wildlife Garden blog post.

4) Keep your garden free from scratchy or sharp debris

Remember to keep your garden free from any scratchy or sharp debris, this could hurt your pets, so it is important to keep a close eye out on anything potentially harmful to your pets and remove them if you spot anything.

5) Create a chemical-free garden

Creating a chemical-free garden environment is not only good for the health of your plants, but also for the health of your pets and the environment. There are various practical and environmentally safe alternatives for maintaining your garden without using toxic chemicals:

  • Natural Fertilisers: Use natural fertilisers instead of synthetic fertilisers. Compost and well-rotted manure provide nutrients to the soil while enhancing its structure. Take a look at our Guide to Garden Fertilisers.
  • Mulching: Use organic mulch such as leaves, straw, or wood chips to retain moisture, reduce weeds, and gradually enhance soil quality as it decomposes.
  • Companion Planting: Plants that naturally repel pests or attract beneficial insects are introduced to create a balanced environment that reduces the need for chemical pest management.
  • Encourage natural predators such as ladybirds, lacewings, and birds that feed on garden pests. To keep pest populations in check, release or attract them.
  • Handpicking: In order to prevent infestations from spreading, examine your plants on a regular basis and physically eliminate bugs.
  • Pruning and cleaning: Trim and remove dead or damaged plant components on a regular basis to minimise disease spread and enhance overall plant health.
  • Weeding: Pull weeds by hand on a regular basis to keep them from competing for resources with your plants.
  • Organic Pesticides: If required, use organic and non-toxic pesticides such as neem oil, diatomaceous earth, or insecticidal soaps that have little influence on the ecosystem and non-target species.
  • Water Management: Water your garden early in the day to avoid fungal development and save water waste. Use drip irrigation to effectively target plant roots.
  • Soil Health: Maintain healthy soil by rotating crops, allowing plants to grow robust root systems, and avoiding over-tilling.
  • Plant herbs like basil, mint, and rosemary that not only look nice but also have natural insect repellent characteristics.

By using these natural practises, you can build a healthy garden that promotes biodiversity, aids pollinators, and provides a safe and pleasurable place for both your dogs and your family.

6) Create a toilet zone for your dog

Selecting a discrete area, establishing clear boundaries, and utilising readily cleanable surfaces are all part of creating a private toilet zone for your dogs. Regular upkeep, positive reward, and a consistent schedule all serve to encourage them to utilise the specified area. Creating a pleasant and sanitary toilet zone, whether by scent marking or unobtrusive signs, offers a convenient and regulated solution for your dogs’ toilet requirements while preserving a clean outdoor environment.

7) Get to know dog and cat safe plants

8) Avoid harmful plants for cats and dogs

Harmful to dogs:

  • Box
  • All other Laurels
  • Clematis
  • Daffodil bulbs
  • Elder
  • Ivy
  • Spindle
  • Holly (berries)
  • Hydrangea
  • English Yew
  • Leylandii
  • Acer
  • Oak
  • Privet
  • Hypericum
  • Wild Cherry

Harmful to cats:

  • Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  • Azalea (Rhododendron)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)
  • Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
  • Rhubarb
  • Yew

There are likely more plants harmful to your animal, so it is important to research before planting!

9) Making well-defined boundaries and walkways in your garden

Making well-defined boundaries and walkways in your garden is critical for protecting your plants while also improving the overall attractiveness. To prevent inadvertent damage, use objects such as stones, bricks, or live hedges to create obvious boundaries around your garden beds. Make walkways out of robust materials like gravel, pavers, or steppingstones to make sure people walk away from sensitive plants. Paths that have been thoughtfully created not only protect your plants but also provide structure and beauty to your outdoor area, creating a balanced mix of usefulness and visual appeal.

10) Make sure to secure your fences

You don’t want your pets escaping, so, regularly check that your fences or borders are secure enough to keep your pets in your garden!

11) Watch out for slugs and snails

They can be toxic to your pet! Natural solutions like as copper tape or eggshell barriers, non-toxic diatomaceous earth, beer traps, and encouraging natural predators offer no risk to your pets. Furthermore, pet-safe tactics like handpicking, changing watering schedules, and applying natural repellents such as coffee grounds or garlic will protect your pets while efficiently managing pests.

12) Locking your shed and safeguarding your compost heap

When it comes to the protection of your pets, locking your shed and safeguarding your compost heap are critical. Pets, particularly curious ones, may enter unsecured sheds, exposing themselves to possible risks such as chemicals, equipment, or sharp items. Similarly, unmanaged compost piles might attract dogs hunting for food leftovers, potentially resulting in dangerous material consumption or choking dangers. By taking these steps, as well as securing your shed and controlling your compost heap, you can create a pet-friendly environment that protects your cherished animals from possible hazards.

What is the best surface for dogs?

The ideal outdoor dog surface mixes comfort, cleanliness, and longevity. Pet-friendly options include natural turf, artificial turf, gravel, and mulch. Artificial turf provides a soft, easy-to-clean surface, while gravel and mulch give efficient drainage.

What should you do when your pet goes to the toilet in your garden?

If your pet defecates on your garden, pick it up right away to avoid odours and preserve a sanitary atmosphere. To pick up waste, you can use a poop-scoop or biodegradable bags, and then dispose of it correctly.

What should you do if your pet eats a snail:

If your dog consumes a snail, it is critical to watch their behaviour and call your vet if any harmful consequences are observed. Snails may contain parasites or poisons that are harmful to pets. Be on the lookout for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, or tiredness. Your vet can advise you on the next measures to take and potential treatments.

Hopefully you should now know how to create a pet friendly garden, but remember, it is always better to do as much research as possible to ensure your pet will be safe and healthy in your garden. Check out our hedging and garden plants, then research to check if they are safe for your pets!