Take your eyes off your pet for just a second and any pet parent knows they can get into just about anything. One of their favorite trouble spots is the garden. Cats, in particular, are grass and green munchers, behavior which is often followed by throwing up on your floor. This is generally harmless and natural to cats. Additionally, some cats are actually flower eaters, so to keep a healthy home, get to know which plants are safe for curious cats and dogs. There are a number of great resources, starting with the ASPCA. Be sure to ask your vet and garden center professionals too. Remember you can’t stop your pet’s instincts, so head them off by planting safe plants.
Let’s start with some of the hazardous plants:
Mums (Chrysanthemum spp.) are one of the most popular fall flowers and are mildly toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation and dermatitis.
Lovely lilies (Lilium genus) are also known as the flower of sadness for their popular use in funeral arrangements. They can also be a sad snack for cats as they can cause kidney damage.
Milkweed is becoming more popular as people rally to save the beautiful Monarch butterfly, but keep it in a far corner of the yard as it is toxic for dogs, cats and especially horses. Luckily, the leaves are quite bitter, so it’s not something pets prefer.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) is a fiery fall foliage favorite but a neigh-neigh for horses. Eating red maple leaves, especially wilted ones, can cause difficulty breathing, anemia, dark urine and even death.
Ginkgo Trees (Ginkgo biloba) are ancient trees that come as either male or female, and both produce gorgeous yellow fall colors. Here’s the twist. The males are nontoxic to pets, but the seeds produced by the females contain a toxin called ginkgotoxin (a methylpyridoxine). They also have an unpleasant odor which dogs can get on their fur and will eventually fragrance your home. Go with the guys if you’re adding a gingko tree.
Rayless Goldenrod (Haplopappus heterophyllus) is nontoxic to dogs and cats but is harmful to horses. It can take several days to two weeks for the severe and sometimes lethal symptoms to appear which include fluid accumulation, tremors, elevated and irregular heart rate, and profuse sweating. Keep this one out of any areas where horses graze.
Now for some pet friendly plants:
Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is tall and stately with beautiful blooms and is considered fine for pet owners gardens.
“Karl Foerster” Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora) is another acceptable grass. This is safe and attractive, but this grass has sharp points which may cause skin irritation.
Asters (Callistephus chinensis) are a purple fall favorite that is nontoxic to dogs, cats and horses and maybe a better choice than mums.
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and Caryopteris (Caryopteris clandonensis) are more purple flowering plants that are nontoxic to pets.
Pansies (Viola tricolor var. hortensis) are cheerful, hardy and come in a rainbow of colors. They are safe for pets and can even survive early frosts. Perk up your plantings with pansies!
Zinnias also come in a rainbow of colors and are easy to grow. They will last into early frost. Here’s a tip: Let the flowers deadhead or drop their seeds, and you should see a new crop after winter.
There are lots more garden additions. Come spring, plant some yellow Nasturtium. They are safe for animals and for human consumption and make a lovely addition to salads and more. Herbs are also safe choices, with dill and basil being great picks.
For a little feline fun, plant some catnip. This member of the mint family will grow into a large bush with fragrant flower. Catnip leaves are used in many human medicinal ways too, including teas and poultices.
One of the happiest additions to the garden is the sunflower. Its bright yellow blooms shout summer fun and not only are they safe for pets, allow them to deadhead and they will be snacked on by birds in the cold months.
One more thing to remember are insecticides and herbicides. Products that contain metaldehyde can be dangerous or even fatal to pets. According to Lowe’s, systemic insecticides, such as those used on roses, can cause the same neurological problems in pets as the insects they’re meant to eliminate. Keep your pet away from any pesticides and use, store and dispose of the products according to the instructions.
If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call you vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 888-426-4435. A consultation fee may apply.
With a little care and attention, you can create an outdoor space that is safe, healthy and beautiful for all to enjoy.