A green thumb and pets do not always mix. But with some pre-planning on the garden’s design and research into which plants are toxic to pets, the two can co-exist in relative harmony.
More than 700 plants have been identified as having enough toxicity in them to harm pets. Symptoms of plant poisoning include excessive drooling, head shaking, gasping, repeated swallowing and depression.
While a plant may not be toxic to pets, the cat or dog may be allergic to the plant material, and therefore, exhibit the same symptoms. Contact your veterinary clinic immediately if you suspect your pet has gotten into your garden and is feeling ill as a result. Remove any leaves, stems, flowers, etc. from the pet’s mouth. And bring a sample of the plant to clinic so the veterinarian is fully aware of what he/she is dealing with.
The most dangerous plant is the Dieffenbachia or dumb cane. The Dieffenbachia only has to come in contact with an animal’s mouth, tongue or throat to cause a serious reaction. Symptoms of Dieffenbachia poisoning include: mouth irritation, upset stomach, asphyxiation, tremors, seizures and death. This is obviously a plant that must be avoided if you have pets.
Other toxic garden plants include the Aconite, Autumn Crocus, Bird of Paradise, Christmas berry, Christmas rose, Daffodil, Holly, and Narcissus. Poisonous root vegetables include the Potato and Rhubarb.
If you are planning to cultivate a herb garden, there are some herbs you are best to continue buying in the store – Atropa belladonna, Bloodroot, Buttercup, Cowslip, Fan weed, Field peppergrass and Flax.
To cats and dogs, a garden is a little piece of heaven. The soil is nice and soft – a perfect litter box for your cat, the plants are tasty – to both cats and dogs, and there are lots of things to find when digging under the soil – like roots and bulbs.
Spraying a cat or dog with water to get it out of the garden is only useful when you catch the animal in the act of trespassing. It is not, however, a long term solution. However, since cats are adverse to water, motion-activated sprinklers may do the trick as the sprinklers go into action as soon as movement is detected around the garden.
A safer deterrent strategy is to grow plants that cats and dogs don’t like the smell, flavour or texture of.
Herbs known to be of no interest to cats are the Absinthe, Lavender and Lemon-thyme. Flowers of disinterest include Fuchsias, Petunias and Roses (because of the thorns). Dogs, on the other hand, are not all that picky. So planting anything prickly is probably the best bet.
If your plant choice still does not keep them out of the garden, try sprinkling pepper (not cayenne as it gets on their paws, then into their eyes), citrus peels, pine cones, blood meal fertilizer and tea leaves around the garden. These are all scents most pets don’t like.
To further secure your garden, place items such as skewers, sharp sticks or toothpicks – all with the pointy end up, pebbles or crushed rock, throughout the garden bed. Chicken wire (lay it down before the plants sprout) will also make digging difficult, while thorny/spiny branches placed around the garden perimeter will help keep the animals at bay.
If all of this fails, then a fence may be necessary. Also, train pets not to go near the garden area when it is being constructed.
We love to bring the outdoors inside, but when it comes to fresh flowers and plants, some are better left outside, and in someone else’s garden.
Christmas plants – poinsettias and mistletoe – are both wonderful additions to the season, however, they can be deadly to our pets. So when your guests are considering a suitable hostess gift to bring, let them know poinsettias and mistletoe are unsuitable.
Some other toxic indoor plants include: Caladium, Castor bean, Dumbcane/Dieffenbackiar, Easter Lily, Elephant’s ear, Hyacinth, Lantana, Philodendrons and Rosary pea.
Keeping toxic plants on table or countertops may not be enough to keep them out of the cat’s reach as they can get pretty much anywhere. As for dogs, the larger ones can reach on top of tables and counters. Use hanging baskets, however, do not place them over something, i.e. the back of the couch, which can be used as a launching pad into the basket. Place planters in rooms the animals are not allowed into or on very high surfaces – tops of bookshelves or mantels for example.