Our ‘fur- children’ are just as important in our families as our real children.
They are our most loyal and loving companions and benefit from having access to a garden that is interesting and stimulating for them too.
In this blog we look at some ideas for making your garden more pet friendly and how to get around some common garden problems that can be encountered with our pets.
Cats are generally low maintenance pets and prefer to be independent and generally sleep a lot in the day. Cats however, can be encouraged to be outside more in the day (and less at night fighting with the neighbour’s!) by making your garden a little more kitty-friendly.
Catmint, or Nepeta faassenii, is a purple flowered, salvia-like-shrub that cats seem to love. They enjoy thrashing around in it and it causes an exciting ‘stimulant’ effect on them. They tend to then sleep off their catmint intoxication, and it does not cause any harm to them. A bush placed somewhere sunny, where you can view their antics from an inside window, will give your cat some excitement in their day.
Grasses for play
Cats love to creep through long grasses in particular – it must bring out their feline instincts as a great place to be hidden and spy on their human friends and other pets and play at ‘stalking’. Long grasses to try plant for your cat include Carexes that curl to the ground, Lomandra tanika, Liriopes and Penesetums with their drooping, feather plumes also make fun plants to bat around and play with for cats. Some dogs also love the drooping foliage of grassy plants like Asparagus ferns that can tickle them as they walk through the leaves. I knew a staffie who used to quiver with delight while walking slowly under the asparagus plant, back and forth.
Trees for shade
All pets definitely need the shade provided by a few evergreen trees to sleep under during hot days outside, especially if your pets are mainly outdoors. Cats in particular benefit from the exercise that climbing trees provides, and it helps them to stay fit and strong for escaping danger if needed. Trees provide a place to spy on the world below and cats really love being up high. Make sure your cat wears a bell if you are worried about birds in the trees but ensure their collar can slip off easily over their head if it gets caught on a branch.
Bird feeder to watch & feather toy
Cats and dogs also love to watch birds that visit your garden. Cats in general are good at catching small birds and love to bring these to their owner’s as a ‘gift’…which is all rather gruesome. Make sure your birdfeeder is positioned where cats won’t be able to get to it to keep your birdy visitors safe. Fill it up with seeds and different fruits to attract different wild birds that your cat can only dream of catching. If your cat loves feathers, then tie a few feathers to a string and hang this outside just within their reach from a tree or shrub branch, where they can bat and play with their ‘birdy’ instead of the real birds.
Old logs as scratch post
Cats can also cause a real nuisance when they sharpen their claws on the furniture causing a lot of damage. Get yourself an indoor cat scratching post or make your own by winding thick hessian string tightly around an old log in the garden to encourage them to scratch there. A perch or two positioned above the scratching post makes a most perfect spot for your cat to enjoy a scratch and then a little nap.
Dogs playful and energetic nature is what endears them so much to us. But these qualities are also what spell ‘doom’ for some parts of your garden. Generally though, by giving dogs an alternative space or place to engage in this playful or doggy behaviour is the best solution for a gardener.
Digging by dogs is probably the most common gardener’s problem! Some breeds love to dig and can cause huge damage to newly planted beds. Digging is an instinct that some dogs just have to succumb to, so rather create an area just for digging in your garden if your dog is a digger or burrier. Use a shell paddling pool that you fill with soil or sand and bury a few doggie treats there regularly to keep them digging there. Lace the soil or sand with Bonemeal for added excitement at the digging area. Alternatively use garden bed fencing to keep your dogs out of areas that are newly planted or that have spring bulbs that may get damaged. You can buy ready-made bed fencing at the garden shop or bend twigs (any fruit tree twigs, willow, thin bamboo canes) into a decorative little fence if that will deter them.
Running around the perimeter
Dogs often get into a huge trouble with their owners for running around the perimeter walls and along the boundary fence whenever cars, other dogs or people go past the house. Plants and groundcovers, gravels and mulch go flying and get destroyed in their frenzy. Dogs actually need to be able to see what is going on outside their territory. If you have thick vegetation at your boundary wall, create a small peephole area they can run to where plants are not grown so they can see out. Watch the route they run in their barking frenzy when dogs go past outside as it tends to be the same each time and deignate this as a dog-path with no plants. See where they jump up to see out and position your peephole there. Allow them this pathway through your plants, but make it more easily accessible from the house or lawn area so they don’t dive through your Arums and other tender plants whenever they want go crazy. Take them out often for walks to run off some energy regularly too.
Herbs and smelling plants
Plant flea-repelling herbs such as lavender, rosemary, Pelargoniums and khakibos. Salvia and Rue (Ruta graveolens), are great plants for dogs for smelling and rolling in. Dogs actually seems to like plants that have a strong smell so that they can ‘cover’ themselves in a scent to overpower other dog scents – a form of marking their territory.
Covered fish pond for pet enjoyment
Dogs, cats and humans alike seem to enjoy watching fish. Cats will often spend a lot of time near a small pond with fish that they can watch from the dry safety of the side. They also seem to much prefer the fish pond water to their bowl of water for drinking! Cover the pond if you fear your cat may enjoy actually fishing or if you have a Labrador or other water-loving dog who may climb in to cool off on hot days. Alternatively give these water-loving dogs a shallow pond all of their own for impromptu swimming. Birds, frogs and other animals will be encouraged to your garden with any water feature you put in.
So do remember your furry friends when it comes to rethinking your garden this spring. Plant some smelling plants and catmint along your garden borders and make your garden as pet-friendly as you can.