Pet-Friendly Gardening, or How not to Poison Your Pet in the Garden

Pet-Friendly Gardening, or How not to Poison Your Pet in the Garden

Spring is here and in many places, the weather is warming up and encouraging us outside again. There can be a lot of hidden dangers in a garden though for a pet.

It’s worthwhile checking yours out to ensure it’s safe for your furry friend this summer.


Many people are quite rightly proud of the beautiful displays of flowers that they grow each year. All this beauty can have a deadly twist though as some popular plants are toxic to our pets.

You should not grow these plants in a pet-friendly garden, or they should be grown in an area which is not accessible to your pet.

Lilies are probably the best known for danger. All parts of the plant are highly poisonous to cats, and can be fatal from brushing against them and then ingesting the pollen whilst grooming.

In spring, bluebells and daffodils are both poisonous, although severe disease is rare. Later in the year watch out for tulips, foxgloves, hyacinth, ivy, azalea, cyclamen, autumn crocuses and buttercups.

Dogs and cats have different tolerances – cats should avoid iris, yucca, leeks, tomatoes and potatoes. Dogs should be wary of bluebells, lupins, yew, rhododendron, wild cherry tree and the stems of sweet peas.


Fencing is important to ensure that your pet cannot escape the garden or yard when not under your direct supervision. You can also use fencing to prevent access to any areas that may not be safe for them – for instance the lily display!

Most dogs will be safe with six foot fencing (not all!) but they should not be able to chew through or dig under the fence. Equally, an inquisitive dog may try to push their head through a small gap and become trapped, so fences should be maintained in good condition.

If you want to contain cats outside, they almost invariable need a fully enclosed area with a roof. These are usually made of wire to allow light through. There’s no reason you can’t plant it up to hide the wire and provide some variety though, so long as you can still access the fencing to check it’s secure.

You should also secure pools and ponds. If there are steep sides, or there is a cover over it in winter, it is very easy for a pet to drown.

Garden aids

Fertilisers and weed-killers are both potentially toxic – so read the instructions carefully and buy pet-friendly wherever possible. Home-made compost is no safer – during the composting process, moulds can develop that can cause seizures and coma in pets. Dogs particularly are often attracted to the smells from compost heaps.

Cocoa mulch is often used as a ground cover between plants, but it is derived from the cocoa bean plant. It contains the same chemicals that make chocolate poisonous to dogs. Look for pet friendly alternatives such as bark or straw based products.

Slugs can carry lungworm which infects dogs, but slug pellets are also toxic. Use physical barriers and beer traps (also kept away from the dog), or do a nightly slug patrol to protect the lettuces.


Keep sheds shut up and preferably locked to keep potentially dangerous chemicals and tools away from your pets. This also stops your pets getting trapped inside. Cats like to investigate anywhere there might be mice, and it is easy to miss them and shut them in by accident.

The same goes for greenhouses, which are more dangerous because of the risk of overheating and dehydration if a pet becomes trapped inside.

Don’t forget the fun!

Who knew gardens could be so dangerous? With a little care and attention though, there is nothing better in the summer. Don’t forget that as well as making the area safe, you can also make it exciting.

Keep some toys outside, such as muddy footballs, for variety. You can use any extra space for tunnels and digging holes. Cats appreciate having things to climb and posts or branches to scratch.

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