What's the most pet-friendly way to landscape?

Cat-friendly Landscaping

Indoor cats can use some time spent outside, too.
Indoor cats can use some time spent outside, too.
David de Lossy/­Getty Images

Cats usually ask little of us humans aside from food, water and petting. Despite their gentle natures, cats could also use a pet-friendly landscape tailored for their kind. Cats require protective measures to keep them safe in the backyard. Even if you own an indoor cat, experts suggest that some occasional time outside can help reduce bad indoor behaviors created by cabin fever [source: NYTNS].

­Like dogs, some common landscape plants that are innocuous to humans can harm or kill cats. Most types of lilies, perennial flowers like crocus, narcissus and tulips, castor beans, yew and English ivy (among many other plants) can cause symptoms like loss of appetite, diarrhea, convulsions and even death in cats [source: ASPCA]. Keeping these types of plants out of backyard areas where your cat may venture will help protect it.

Cats do love to nuzzle and chew on plants, so investing in cat-friendly plants is a good idea for your landscape. Of course, catnip is a good addition, but cats also usually love most types of mint, cat thyme and valerian -- which acts as a sedative on cats and humans alike.

Since cats tend to be small and agile enough to circumvent fences that block larger animals, some companies offer kits that you can add onto a privacy fence. These help keep your cat in your yard and unfriendly dogs out. You'll also want to pay attention to other predators that can overcome fences, like owls. Since owls are crepuscular -- active at twilight -- it's a good idea to keep your cat indoors once the sun sets.

If your cat isn't of the more destructive variety, there are some steps you can take to prevent landscape ruin. Like dogs, cats don't like thorny shrubs. They also don't like wet ground. Keeping a marshy area around a backyard pond will prevent your cat from trying to swipe fish from it [source: Cats Protection]. Keeping planting beds moist will deter digging, but make sure you don't overwater your plants, though.

You can also opt to spread palletized chicken manure around your planting beds. Cats aren't fond of the stuff, but if you have a landscape shared by a cat and a dog, take heed: Dogs happily roll in chicken manure [source: Cats Protection]. It'll keep your cat out, but your dog will smell terribly. You can opt instead for deterrent sprays made of garlic or pepper oil; either should do the trick.

Just remember, you love your pets. Surrendering your backyard to a pet you love can warm your heart and make them happy at the same time.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Estep, Daniel, Ph.D. and Hetts, Suzanne, Ph.D. "Why dogs dig." Rocky Mountain News. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.animalbehaviorassociates.com/pdf/RMN_dogs_digging.pdf
  • Russ, Karen and Polonski, Bob. "Low-maintenance landscape ideas." Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service. Accessed December 2, 2008. http://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/HGIC1703.htm
  • "Landscaping for dogs." HGTV. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.hgtv.com/landscaping/landscaping-for-dogs/index.html
  • "Pet-friendly landscaping keeps animals safe, happy." New York Times News Syndicate. August 20, 2008. http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dws/fea/pets/stories/082108dnlivlandscaping.390ef70.html#
  • "Portfolio of pet-friendly yards." Pawfriendly Landscapes. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.pawfriendlylandscapes.com/portfolio.html
  • "Prized pet plants." Mountain Valley Growers. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/mvv1-98.htm
  • "Top tips for gardeners keen on feline-friendly deterrents." Cats Protection. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=82604
  • "Toxic plants for dogs." CyberCanine. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.cybercanine.com/toxicplants.htm
  • "17 common poisonous plants." American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pro_apcc_common