How to protect your garden from curious pets
PET lovers may also be garden lovers and, at times, pets and gardens clash due to the natural activities of your pet cat or dog.
Boredom, loneliness and pent-up energy, especially among breeds of working and hunting dogs, can be a real issue if you are a keen gardener.
With some simple planning, your pets can happily co-exist with your garden.
Dogs, by their very size, will usually cause more problems than cats.
Dogs like activities to keep themselves entertained.
Like children, they like to dig, so build them a doggy sandpit in a position in your yard where they like to sit during the day.
Consider burying a treat-dispensing ball each day in a different position.
Your pup will enjoy the mental and physical challenge of finding the treat and being rewarded for the effort.
After a few days you may find that they rarely bother digging anywhere else.
For cats, install a scratching post somewhere up high, so that they feel safe from the world.
A platform on a post is ideal to enable them to climb and view the world.
When pets see a bare space, they see this as an opportunity to use it; a place to dig a hole to stay cool, bury something or just roll around in the dirt.
Fill bare spaces with hardy ground covers or coarse bark or stones if you wish to keep your pets off this space.
Use rounded pebbles in areas where pets are allowed to walk so they don't cut up their paw pads on sharp-edged mulches.
If possible, leave a space around the property boundary so the dog can still patrol his domain and exercise his sense of guarding and controlling his boundary.
If you need to deter your pets from certain areas of your garden, there are commercial formulas available, but you can make your own using household products such as cayenne pepper, turpentine, citronella and mothballs.
Most dog owners have seen their dog eat grass or heard the advice that it's because their dog is unwell, hungry or bored, but it's actually a very normal behaviour.
Some dogs eat grass simply because they like the taste and texture.
Other dogs tend to eat grass when their stomach is upset or gassy.
The grass helps induce vomiting in order to expel whatever might be bothering your dog.
You could create their own special grazing area by planting pet grass in a pot and teaching them to use it, but if your dog is eating more grass than usual, it is best to organise a check-up with your vet.
Cats also enjoy a nibble on grass and favour certain herbs such as catnip, catmint or catswort.
Of course, if your pet prefers a certain section of grass in your garden to chew on, make sure you keep chemical sprays away from that area so the grass is always clean and green.
Most animals that are confined in a yard will select a particular area for a toilet.
If you can, assign a designated toilet area in your yard to keep your lawn green and "landmine-free".
Train your animals to use this location.
It is pretty simple to install an in-ground pet poo-composter nearby.
Take a length of plastic or PVC pipe and drill lots of holes into it so that garden worms can get in to it and compost the waste.
Bury your pipe vertically and place a tight-fitting lid on top or use a pipe cap-end so you can add to your pet poo-composter daily while keeping houseflies away.
Just make sure you remember that this compost should never be used in your vegie garden or on anything that may be consumed.
Avoid having shrubs or grasses with burrs or thorns along the edges of the garden where your pet runs or walks by.
If not, you could spend a lot of time removing them or, in a worst case scenario, being forced to take them to the vet.
For the safety of your pets, use and store garden chemicals and fertilisers out of reach so they do not accidentally ingest them, especially snail and slug pellets which are a relatively common source of pet poisoning due to their resemblance to some dry dog foods.
While some may claim to be pet friendly, do not take the risk.
Always keep blood and bone fertiliser in a sealed container to contain the smell so as not to attract your dog or others. At a minimum, keep it in a locked shed.
There are many natural alternatives to garden chemicals to deter pests and these would be well worth seeking out and would usually be much safer for your pets.
But also be mindful that "natural" does not necessarily mean not toxic or harmful.
When planning or planting, always be aware of toxic plants as some may be fatal to your pets or at the least, can make them ill. Avoid these plants if your pets like to chew on your garden:
- Anything with a bulb (daffodils, jonquils, lilies, tulips)
- Aloe vera
- Tree philodendron
A little bit investigation when planning your garden and some low-tech thinking can save your garden and your pets from grief.
Thinking ahead can mean happy gardening and happy pets.