Top ways to make your garden pet friendly

23 May 2022 - 6 min read
Cat and dog playing in the garden

We love turning our gardens into our oasis, and our pets love it, too. In this article, we explore tips and creative ideas to make your garden a haven for your pets.

Award-winning garden writer Jean Vernon gives us tips and ideas for sharing your garden with pets, children and wildlife.

Garden ideas for dogs and how to make a cat-friendly garden

Giving them space 

Our pets love to romp, roll and play in the garden, so it’s great if there is space to run around.

Paths mown through long grass show pets possible routes to take. Pets often want a place to rest and relax, and paths can lead them there. Make them a sunning spot where they can laze in the summer sun. A vantage point is a good choice so that they can survey everything around them.

Cats and dogs like a hidey-hole and make little snoozing nests in long grass or under bushes.

We recommend trying a few of these garden hacks.

Prune shrubs

Prune your shrubs so there’s pet space underneath. Look at planting a pet-safe, ground-hugging plant underneath to create a living carpet. Something like bugle (ajuga reptans) is a good choice.

Or make a waterproof cat or dog cabin complete with a comfy cushion and a sprig or two of dried catmint. Add a few treats to get your pet used to going inside, and you’ve created a lovely chill-out zone.

Don’t forget that cats love to be up high in a vantage point where they can observe proceedings. Make them an outdoor climbing tower where they can sit atop and view the world.

Watching where your pet likes to hang out is a good place to start. Then you can work on making it an even better place for them to rest and relax.

Placing a favourite treat or chew where you want your pet to be is always a good way to get them to make good associations with that part of the garden.

Provide shade and shelter

Make sure your garden offers plenty of shade and sheltered areas where pets can retreat from the sun or inclement weather.

It can also help prevent heatstroke.

Dog-friendly and cat-friendly garden ideas

Create Designated Play Areas

Image of a Jack Russell playing outside with a toy in its mouth

Cats and dogs love to play. Creating a cat-friendly garden isn't too hard, and dogs adore outdoor space. Start with outdoor toys - dogs love to chase balls, which are much safer than sticks, and there are plenty of treat dispensing balls and toys available to add to the fun factor.

Cats love to watch birds. They’ll play with feathers, chase butterflies and pretty much anything that moves.

Make them a swinging toy hanging from a hanging basket bracket, and don’t forget to add some catmint somewhere in the garden. You might need to protect it with an upturned wire, hanging basket (empty of course) to protect the spring growth from overzealous kitty cuddles.

Hide and seek

It’s good fun playing hide and seek with a pet, especially if your garden is large and full of nooks, crannies, mounds and hollows.

Young pets especially love an active game. You can hide behind a tree and pop out and surprise them, or chase them around dropping down behind a shrub or a seat. Take care that there are no prickly plants or spiky stems sticking out.

You can also hide treats around your plot. It’s a great way to keep pets occupied.

Somewhere to dig

Image of a german shepherd laying down in a sand pit

Cats and dogs love to dig in the garden. Make them a dedicated spot for it.

It could be a sandpit where your cat can toilet or a special raised bed area for your dog to dig up treasure. Get them in the mood by hiding treats or burying bones around their special digging zone.

A child’s paddling pool could make the perfect outer or even an adapted wooden pallet (beware of nails). It’s important that the area drains freely so it doesn’t become waterlogged and that you can regularly remove any pet deposits that might soil the area.

Install pet-friendly fencing

You can protect precious places where you don’t want them to dig with fencing, cloches or by providing your pets with a separate, enclosed space where they can run and play safely. Or you could plant a low hedge around an area that’s out of bounds.

Incorporate water features

All creatures need a source of water. A birdbath or a water feature is a great way to attract all sorts of creatures to your plot and provide drinking water for your pets.

Always make sure there’s a shallow end and an escape route for easy exit. Keep the water clean and aerated, and never use antifreeze in any outdoor water to stop it from freezing. Pets and wildlife can be severely poisoned by antifreeze.

Plants safe for dogs and cats

Image of a cat surrounded by lavender plants

There’s probably no such thing as a safe plant. But there are safer choices. If your pets help prune your garden plants, then you might want to avoid growing anything with spines and prickles in case they ingest them. And be aware that some plants are toxic to dogs and cats. 

To be completely safe, create a safe area with pet-safe plants and exclude them from the rest of the garden when unsupervised.

Choose herbs like calendula, mint, lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme or grow fruit trees like apples and pears. Dogs love to play ball with an apple or pick the strawberries straight from the plants. Catmint is an essential choice if you have cats.

A person high fiving a dog

Get £15,000 lifetime vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

A person high fiving a dog

Nibbling grass

Image of a cat eating grass

Cats and dogs like to nibble on grass, and you can grow special wheat grass for them to eat. Try growing a seed tray of wheatgrass (Avena sativa) to make a grass turf for your pet.

Pets may also eat the lawn grass, so avoid treating it with chemicals so it’s safe for them.

Some ornamental grasses can also be a pet hazard. Wiry or coarse-leaved ornamental grasses can become stuck in a pet’s throat or nose and be very painful.

To be completely safe it’s best not to grow these in your garden, or if you must, choose to grow them in hanging baskets and window boxes out of reach.

Do note that grass seeds are very problematic for cats and dogs.

Minimise Hazards

Hazards are everywhere, but we can stop most of them with a bit of observation. 

Young animals are particularly prone to ‘grazing’ on things that can do them harm – almost a third of dog insurance claims for puppies in 2021 were for poisoning.

The most obvious garden hazards are toxic chemicals. Weedkiller is probably the most common. To be completely safe it’s better to ditch all chemicals from your plot – this will benefit your pets as well as any wildlife or children that visit your garden.

Some plants are poisonous, so always err on the side of caution when you choose what to grow. Avoid things like foxgloves, daffodils, monk’s hood, daphne, potatoes and yew, but there are many others.

Lilies and their pollen are poisonous to cats and dogs, so it’s best not to grow lilies in your garden if you have pets. Be careful with cut flowers, too.

Slugs and snails may be infected with lungworm, so make sure that your dogs stay clear.

Secure the compost bin to prevent pets from eating food scraps or mouldy material. 

Several species of mushrooms are harmful to dogs. They’re more commonly encountered on walks but could also pop up around the garden.

Cats and dogs love to investigate strange noises and smells. If your garden is adjacent to the countryside, you may find all sorts of wildlife in your garden. Keep an eye on your pets to keep them safe. Be aware of any potential dangers such as insect bites and stings and local wildlife.

Maintain Regular Cleanup

Keep your garden clean and tidy by promptly removing pet waste and debris to prevent odours and maintain a hygienic environment.

Making memories

The best way to keep your pets safe in the garden is to be outside with them so that you can observe their behaviour, play with them and make the garden a fun place to be.

Involve your friends and family, create games to play together and make the most of your outdoor space, making lovely memories to cherish forever.

By implementing these top tips, you can create a pet-friendly garden that enhances your outdoor space and promotes the well-being of your furry friends. With careful planning and consideration, your garden can become a paradise for you and your pets to enjoy together.

A cat waving whilst a dog hides its face

Up to 15% discount on multi-pet mix and match plans

A cat waving whilst a dog hides its face