kitten up a tree

How to have a cat friendly garden

Hints and tips to make your garden a happy, healthy cat-friendly space

It is much easier to have a cat-friendly garden than it is a dog garden as you cannot contain a cat in a garden and they don’t usually eat plants so poisoning is quite rare. There are quite a few plants which can cause illness in cats, most notable is lily pollen and this is achieved quite easily as all the cat has to do is brush past, so definitely not a good idea to grow these. As with the dogs don’t grow spiky or thorny plants or grasses with barbed seed heads, which get stuck in their coat. Other plants which are toxic have to be ingested, with a lot of them that’s the roots, bulbs or rhizomes so the chances of your cat becoming ill from these plants is very, very unlikely. Toxic plants include some fairly commonly grown in British gardens, including: Alliums, Amaryllis, Azaleas & Rhododendrons, Colchicum (Autumn Crocus), Narcissus (Daffodils) and Sweet Peas. For a full list of toxic plants for cats go to the International Cat Care website.

Old illustration of Nepeta cataria (Catnip)

One of the best plants to grow for cats is Nepeta cataria (Catnip) which they absolutely love, if you plant this they will roll on it rather than your precious specimens. They also love Lavender, Mint and Valarian. Try drying the Catnip and sewing in into a sturdy fabric pouch to use as a cat toy. They will also need a cool, shady spot to sit, either on grass or finely raked soil, or you could even put their bed outside in hot weather. Make their shady area underneath shrubs and hang cat toys from the branches to encourage them to use that spot instead of the rest of the garden. If you give them a litter tray of sand or soil outside they might even use it and stop digging in the borders. The same goes for cats as dogs, if your border is densely packed with plants they will be more likely to use the litter tray that you provide.

If you have a pond or water feature make sure that it is covered, especially if you keep fish! Not only does the danger come from them drowning but also drinking any water which you have treated to remove algae. Also beware of feeding the birds as cats will do what comes naturally. Cat proof fencing is available but does come at a price, but well worth the investment if your breed is particularly valuable. Although the risks of your cat becoming injured or ingesting a poisonous plant in a normal family garden is low it is quite easy to take a few steps to minimise this risk even further.

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas