Making your garden pet-friendly

How to create a space your pets will love and how to avoid plants they should stay away from.

Our cats and dogs share our gardens just as they share our homes, so it’s worth taking a good long look at what’s growing outside that will keep them happy and what changes you can make to keep them from harm.

Herbs for shade and shelter

Cats love their privacy and a place that’s cool where they can sleep or hide. Large bushy herbs are perfect for this.

  • Perennial herbs like rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and lavender are good for hiding under. Both are excellent flea repellents, too and an infusion of the herbs chopped up with cooled boiled water can be used to wash or spray your pet’s coat.
  • Other herbs that repel fleas are pyrethrum, tansy, catnip, and pennyroyal.

Herbs for health

These include tonic herbs that maintain pet health, however herbal remedies should always be used with caution, and this applies as much to animals as it does to people. Always consult your vet if you’re concerned.

  • Cat grass (Dactylis glomerata) and Dog grass (Spartina pectinata) are plants your pets would visit every morning for a nibble. These grasses have nutritional value, they benefit the digestive system and can act as a purgative when they feel unwell.
  • General tonic herbs include parsley, comfrey leaves, pennywort, borage and yarrow.
  • Digestive herbs include fennel and mint, especially peppermint (Mentha piperita), which has a beneficial effect on the digestive system and also soothes the nervous system.
  • Arthritis and inflammation generally affects older pets and herbs that can help include feverfew, comfrey leaves, celery, parsley and yarrow. You could even add chopped up herbs in small quantities to your pet’s food.
  • Worms and parasites can be minimised by adding yarrow, thyme and oregano to food, as well.
  • Skin care herbs – calendula, thyme, chamomile, lavender and Gotu kola – can be used internally and externally to keep the coat and skin healthy and reduce irritation. Why not make an infusion and put it into a plant mister to lightly spray onto the affected area? Unlike greasy ointments or salves, this is less likely to be licked off.

Herbs that look good

Flowering herbs attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees, but your pets will enjoy these too.

  • Many cats love catmint (Nepeta mussinii). If they over-eat it, some pets might become jumpy, anxious or sleepy, but not to the same extent as with catnip (Nepeta cataria).
  • Catmint is a beautiful garden plant with aromatic grey leaves and spikes of mauve flowers that also attract bees.
  • The best way to preserve catnip is to make a hanging kitty basket. Why not try making your own, with our easy to follow instructions here?

How to make your own catnip basket

What you need:

  • Catnip plants (1-3 depending on how fast you want the plants to cover the basket)
  • 1 x 25 cm wire hanging basket with a coir inner and chain
  • 1 x 25 cm wire basket (no coir or chain needed)
  • Herb potting soil
  • Organic/slow release fertiliser
  • Cable ties


  1. Mix about one tablespoon of organic fertilizer with the soil.
  2. Place some of the soil mixture at the base of the wire basket with the coir inner and chain.
  3. Position the plants and fill in between with soil.
  4. Water thoroughly.
  5. Invert the second wire basket over the planted-up basket, using the cable ties to join them together.
  6. Hang the basket out of reach in a sunny position with at least four hours’ direct sunlight daily.
  7. Only lower it down once the catnip starts growing through the wire basket. This way cats can’t destroy the plants, but can still enjoy the catnip.
  8. Fertilise with a liquid fertiliser at least once a month.

Keeping your pets happy and healthy

There are other little ways in which you can make your garden a haven for your furry friends.

  • Give them somewhere to drink – put water in bowls or maintain a shallow pond or ornamental fountain.
  • Think carefully about what garden chemicals you’re using and avoid putting out slug pellets which can prove toxic if other animals swallow them.
  • Don’t clear away all the winter’s natural debris – an old log or branch is great for pets to play with and for cats to use as a scratching post.
  • Check our tips for enjoying Summer with your dog, including dealing with hayfever and keeping him or her safe around barbecues.