Pet-friendly Gardening

Posted by Catherine Wainwright, on April 12, 2024.

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National Pet Month is a time to appreciate our pets and consider pet-friendly choices both in the garden and at home. Whether you’re an experienced pet owner or planning for the future, this month is a good time to think about creating a safe environment for your cats and dogs. From toxic plants to responsible gardening practices, take a look at these important considerations to ensure your pets and plants can exist in harmony.

Toxic indoor plants to avoid 

Houseplants are a great way to enhance our indoor space, but some species can lead to serious allergic reactions in cats and dogs. We’ve compiled a list of some toxic houseplants to avoid; however, this is by no means exhaustive. Before purchasing a plant, make sure to research whether the species is pet-friendly.

  • Alocacia: Plants in the Alocacia genus contain oxalate crystals that can cause irritation in the mouth and digestive tract.
  • Aloe vera: This species is considered healing for humans, but will cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Jade Plant (Crassula ovata): Jade plants may cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and lethargy.
  • Corn Plant (Dracaena fragans): Plants in the Dracaena genus contain saponin that can cause digestive issues in both cats and dogs. In cats, symptoms may also include dilated pupils.
  • Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum): Devil’s Ivy can cause irritation and swelling in the mouth and digestive tract.
  • Euphorbia: Many succulents within the Euphorbia genus are toxic to cats and dogs, causing digestive issues when ingested or skin irritation upon contact with the plant’s sap.
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix): English Ivy contains triterpenoid saponins that can cause digestive issues and hypersalivation.
  • Kalanchoe: Small amounts will cause diarrhoea and vomiting, whereas large amounts can cause changes in heart rate and rhythm.
  • Lilies (Lilium spp.): Lilies are considered highly toxic for cats, causing kidney failure when ingested. Dogs will experience milder symptoms, including digestive issues.
  • Umbrella Plant (Schefflera actinophylla): Containing calcium oxalate crystals, ingesting this plant will cause oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.

Note that, although they may not be toxic, the spines of many cacti can also harm your pets. It is best to keep these species out of reach or out of the home if you have curious cats and dogs.

Toxic Outdoor Plants to Avoid

Spring is the time of year when our gardens burst into colour; however, there are a number of flowers to be aware of if you own pets. Remember to research each species before purchasing to make sure your garden is pet-friendly.

  • Crocuses: Spring crocuses can cause digestive issues, while autumn crocuses may have more serious effects, including kidney or liver damage.
  • Daffodils (Narcissus spp.): These spring flowers contain glycosides and alkaloids, causing digestive irritation and lethargy.
  • Foxgloves (Digitalis spp.): Containing naturally occurring poisons called cardenolides, foxgloves are highly toxic to pets and can even be fatal. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, and an abnormal heart rate.
  • Hyacinths (Hyacinthus spp.): Containing oxalate crystals, these flowers can cause irritation in the mouth and intestines as well as digestive issues.
  • Rhododendrons: These species are considered highly toxic to cats and dogs and can even be fatal. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, leg paralysis, and cardiovascular collapse.
  • Tulips (Tulipa spp.): Members of the Tulipa genus can cause vomiting and diarrhoea when ingested.

Pet-friendly Gardening Practices

Fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides

Whether chemical or organic, many fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides can be harmful to your pets. Residue can be picked up on paws, or water runoff can form puddles that your pets drink from. Consider that natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe for cats and dogs, so be sure to check the label for pet-friendly options. As a general rule, allow at least 24 to 72 hours after application before letting your pets go outdoors. Always refer to the product for specific guidelines, and store the bottle in a secure location.

What not to compost

It is not recommended to compost cat and dog waste. Carnivorous waste contains pathogens and parasites that can remain after the material has decomposed in your compost pile. It may be possible to hot-compost waste from carnivores, but the pile would have to reach temperatures of 55°C to 60°C to safely kill pathogens. If you are unsure, it is better to avoid composting carnivorous waste altogether.

Waste from your herbivore pets, such as hamsters, gerbils, and rabbits, can be safely composted. Additionally, if your cat litter is 100% plant-based, this can go into your composter once any solids have been removed.