Sharing your life with a pet might be fun, but it comes with responsibility. Keeping our cats, dogs, rabbits, and hamsters safe, happy, and well is part and parcel of being a pet owner. Sometimes, though, it can feel easier said than done. As the weather starts to get warmer and we all start itching to get outside, we’re faced with the head-scratching challenge of how to go about making the garden safe for our pets. Not only do we need to make sure it’s secure enough that they can’t escape, we also need to consider what dangers could be lurking in the flowerbeds. Toxic plants, weed killers, rodent poisons, unfriendly wildlife… start thinking too much about all the possible hazards, and you’ll never want them to leave the house. Fortunately, you don’t need to ground them for life to keep them safe. A few little changes and precautions are all you need to make the garden a welcoming haven for you and your pets. Here, we take a look at the top ten tips for making your garden safe for pets.
1. Rip out poisonous plants…
Plants might look pretty and innocent on the outside, but some of them hide a toxic secret. If your garden’s home to any of these not-so-pet-friendly plants, rip them up as soon as possible: Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Daffodils, English Ivy, Morning Glory, Nightshade, Azalea, Chokecherries, Buttercup, Foxglove, Horse Nettle, Woody Aster, Oleander, Tulip, Day Lily, Wisteria, Clematis, Crocus Bulb, and Bird-Of-Paradise. It may sound extreme, but if it’s a choice between you being mean to a plant, and a plant being mean to your pet, you know what you need to do.
2. … And replace them with pet-friendly alternatives
Once you’ve got rid of any potentially hazardous plants, consider replacing them with any of these non-toxic varieties: African daisy, African Violet, Baby Tears, Alyssum, Gloxinia, Bachelors Buttons, Begonia, Celosia, and Common Snapdragon.
3. Keep them away from fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides
As House Beautiful notes, one of the worst things in your garden for pets is all those fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides lining the shelves of your shed. Yes, they’ll do a fine job of keeping your plants healthy. But keep your pets healthy at the same time? Not so much. Store all garden products firmly out of reach of wandering paws, and keep your pets well away from any treated areas until the ‘danger period’ (which should be stated on the instructions) has passed.
4. Don’t use poison
Rats are a nuisance, sure. In fact, more than a nuisance. Voles and mice aren’t exactly the most welcome of garden creatures either. But if you’ve got pets, you’re either going to have to get used to having a few rodents or find another way of controlling their populations (presuming, that is, that you’re currently using conventional rodent poisons). If a mouse can make a meal of a poisonous pellet, so can your pet. And trust us, you don’t want to deal with the consequences of that happening.
5. Compost wisely
You might think you’re doing all kinds of wonderful things for the environment by making your own compost, but you might not be doing your pet any favors in the process. Compost can contain a plethora of decaying food matter like grapes or onions that can be hugely toxic to dogs. If you’re going to compost, do it wisely.
6. Tidy up
Keeping your hedges pruned, your lawn mowed, and your trees shapely might leave your neighbors happy, but if you’re not careful, you might make an enemy of your pet. Tree needles, hedge clippings, and other garden waste can seem like a very appealing dinner to some pets, but the effects on their digestive system are likely to leave you both in pain. Unless you want to rack up a hefty vet’s bill, make sure to clean up after yourself after doing any gardening.
7. Clean your pond
As Pet Poison Helpline reports, blue-green algae accumulates on the surface of fresh and saltwater, given it a slimy coating and a pea-green color. If you notice an overgrowth of algae in your pond, get it cleaned asap. If your pet comes into contact with the water, they risk a score of serious side effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, shock, icterus (yellow gums), and even death.
8. Fence them in
If you’re going to let your pets wander freely around the garden, make sure that’s all they get to wander. Unless you want them roaming the neighborhood unsupervised, do as Wiki suggests and make sure your garden has adequate walls or fences. A six feet wall should be enough to deter most dogs, although you might have to go to seven or eight feet if they’re elite high jumpers. Make sure the material you use is strong enough to withstand attack and stay well clear of anything with gaps or holes that could prove a handy escape route. Equally, be sure they can’t dig their way out: if you’re worried about the possibility, a layer of chicken wire under the surface should be enough to keep them in.
9. Avoid thorny plants
We’ve already discussed the plants that can be dangerous to your pet if ingested, but you might also want to check what physical dangers some plants present. Thorny or prickly plants like cacti, yucca, or blackberries can cause some serious damage if they come into contact with your pet’s eyes or paws, so avoid them wherever possible.
10. Make sure they have water
Stop your pet becoming drenched in the rain or dehydrated in the sun by making sure they have constant access to water and shelter. Fill their water bowl with fresh water every time you let them out into the garden, but resist the temptation to leave bowls of food out (unless you want to start attracting every other passing critter, that is).