The sun is shining, the days are getting longer and there's no longer a chill in the air. That can only mean one thing - Spring is officially here! We love spending time in our garden year round, but there's something very special about that Spring-time sunshine that has us outside at every opportunity! Because of this, and in celebration of National Gardening Day, we wanted to share some top tips to make sure your pets can safely enjoy your garden alongside you.
One of the most important factors in creating a pet-friendly garden is making sure that your garden is safe and secure for your pets. Check your fences are secure and don't have any broken panels or gaps that your dog could wriggle through. It is also important to make sure your pets flea, tick and worming treatments and their vaccinations are up to date. It is also important to make sure your plants are safe for your pets and that you aren't using any chemicals that could be toxic to them.
You should also avoid using mulches made of cocoa as these are toxic for dogs, and they can be attracted by the smell. Make sure you keep tools locked up somewhere safe so that your pet doesn't injure themselves. It is also very important to make sure they have plenty of clean, fresh drinking water available as well as plenty of shady spots to keep cool. It is also a good idea to remove any bird feeders from gardens where you have cats or dogs as this can help prevent your pet from hunting wildlife.
Making your outside space cat-friendly is can be fairly easy to do. The aim is to provide everything within the space that your cat might need. Providing your cat with places to hide is very important, especially near their entrance into the outside space. Having a hiding spot near their cat flap gives them somewhere safe to retreat to if they feel threatened or a sense of danger. A very open garden can make your cat feel vulnerable and exposed, so providing hiding spots helps them to feel much safer in their territory. Good hiding spots you could use are dense bushes or shrubs or old wooden boxes.
Vantage points, or high-up places, are also a great addition to your cat-friendly garden. Cats like to be up high as it can make them feel safer as it provides them with a good look out point where they can check for danger or escape to if they feel threatened. High up places also provide safe places to relax when it’s sunny. Good high places to provide for your cat include shelves, ledges, fences, tables and benches.
Did you know that many cats can be trained to use an outdoor litter tray, also known as a cat latrine? Cats are generally very clean animals and if given the opportunity, would usually prefer to use a safe suitable area outside to toilet in, far away from their other resources such as food and water. Battersea recommends providing a cleared area containing woodchip, sand or loose earth. Your cat might have a preference so it's best to try out different substrates to find which one they prefer. Make sure to pick an area that provides some privacy for your cat too; an area surrounded by shrubs or plants is a good idea.
Some good, enriching plants for your cat include;
Cat Grass – Cats often eat grass as it is thought to help with digestion. ‘Cat grass’ is the perfect type of grass for cats to munch on that is good for their gut.
Catmint – Catmint and other members of the mint family are plants that may be attractive and stimulating to your cat.
Catnip – Whilst we’re not really sure of the exact effect catnip has on the brain of cats, many cats (around 50-70%) find the leaves of this plant to have a stimulating effect.
Honeysuckle – Thought to have a similar effect on cats to catnip (although only about 30% of cats are responsive to it).
Valerian – If you have a cat that needs to relax, this plant is thought to have soothing and calming effects on cats.
The garden is a great, safe place for your dog to explore and for you to provide some enriching activities for them. The garden encourages natural canine behaviours such as sniffing, foraging and exploring, all of which improve your dogs happiness and overall wellbeing. One of the easiest ways to make your garden more dog-friendly is to plant a variety of strong-smelling herbs all around to give your dog something fun to sniff. Just make sure they're all safe for dogs before planting them.
Another great idea is to build features at different heights for your dog to climb on and over. Dogs enjoy exploring at various levels, so this will add to their enjoyment of the garden and make playtime more fun. You could use railway sleepers, steps, stones or small benches. Just make sure everything is safely placed and won't topple over and cause injury.
Creating a mixture of textures is another great way to enrich your dogs time in the garden. Try hiding treats and toys in non-toxic sand, grass or wood chips for your furry friend to find. This tip is especially good for times your dog must be left alone. Allowing your dog to dig by creating a digging pit can really help your dog to let out some energy whilst keeping your garden safe from destruction. Simply choose an area of your garden that you're happy for your dog to dig in, find a sturdy container such as a heavy-duty plastic box and dig a hole deep enough so the top of the container is flush with ground level. Fill the container with the earth you’ve dug out from the hole or you can use dog-friendly sand. Teach your dog to dig in this area by scattering or burying treats for them to find. You could also half-bury some of their outdoor toys for them to dig out.
Some good, enriching plants for your dog include;
Lavender - This fragrant, purple-flowered evergreen is soothing for pooches as well as their people
Rosemary - A beautiful, blue-flowered shrub with a distinctive smell. This makes a great addition to your dog-friendly garden (and you can cook with it too!)
- Sage - This is another scented herb that your dog will love to sniff. It is a flowering herb, with flowers ranging from blue to magenta depending on the variety.