Planting for Pets
Our pets are our best friends, companions and protectors and whilst they continuously shower us with love, affection, purrs and sloppy kisses, they are also entirely dependent on us to provide them with a healthy and safe environment at all times. While we’re at it, we could include a few plants for them to enjoy and some healing plants to use in keeping them healthy and happy.
One of the best and most basic things you can do for your furry friend is a move towards organic gardening. Your pet is ultimately exposed, as you are, to whatever goes into the soil or onto your plants and lawn. Take care to use only quality organic fertilisers and pesticides to feed the plants you grow and to spray or treat them against pests and diseases. This way they can safely roll around and play on the lawn or nibble at their favourite grass or herbs.
It is also very important to research the existing plants in your garden regarding their possible toxicity to animals. A lot of plants have some level of toxicity, but need to be eaten in huge quantities to be harmful, while others can be really lethal in small doses. Therefore, research is key before you rip out every plant in your garden simply based on hearsay.
PLANTS FOR PETS TO ENJOY
If your cat is a catnip lover, this is a real hit! Cats react to catnip in different ways – to some it is a huge pick-me-up – they will frantically eat it, roll around in it, go crazy with their catnip-stuffed toys, clown around with great energy and it wouldn’t surprise us if they were to virtually defend their plant with one of their nine lives! On other cats, it has a calming and sedative effect and they will simply laze around or fall asleep on it. Some cats will do both! Whichever category your cat falls in, he or she will benefit greatly from it.
Catnip or Nepeta cataria is part of the mint family and has a spreading habit. It can either be grown from seed or bought as small plants at Lifestyle Home Garden in spring when all danger of frost has passed. Plant catnip in beds, pots, trays or window boxes – or hanging baskets if you’re concerned about how much your cat eats at a time – in well-draining soil or potting mix. The plants need at least 6 hours of full sun, with morning sun being preferable. Keep moist and trim regularly to promote new growth – your cat might do this for you!
Don’t hold it against your cats if they show no interest in catnip – about 30% of cats don’t carry the active gene that makes them respond to the smell and taste of catnip. Young kittens and old cats might also not immediately react to catnip.
CATMINT (Nepeta racemosa)
Catmint is often confused with catnip and although you might also find your cat nibbling at it to aid its digestion, the plant’s effect on cats is not as dramatic as that of the magic Nip. It has a more upright and taller growth habit and is an asset to any garden with its beautiful grey-green foliage and striking spikes of lavender or pink flowers from early summer onwards. It prefers a full sun position from where it will attract bees, butterflies and all sorts of other beneficial pollinators.
PET GRASS (Including Cat Grass and Dog Grass)
Pet grass is a natural plant source of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fibre for our furry friends. It will provide roughage and aid their digestion and in cats it will help to expel those unflattering hairballs.
Pet grass is evergreen and can be sown from seed or bought as a young plant, from Lifestyle Home Garden, throughout the year. Plant or sow it directly in the garden to create a comfortable (and edible!) soft patch of lawn for your pets to enjoy. For apartment dwellers with balconies and those of us with small gardens or patios, pet grass can also be planted in pots, tubs, large trays and bowls where it will thrive just as well as in the garden.
Plant your pet grass in full sun or semi-shade in well drained soil or a good potting mix. Keep it moist, but not waterlogged and fertilise regularly with an organic, water-soluble fertiliser high in nitrogen. Cut established pet grass back in early spring and intermittently throughout the growing season, if your pets don’t do it for you – this will encourage strong regrowth.
Most of the culinary herbs we generally plant in our gardens or in pots are safe for pets and they will sniff at them and take nibbles as and when they feel the need – animals are clever that way and their instincts will lead them. Some herbs can be sprinkled over their food fresh or included in their cooked meals if you follow that feeding regime.
So, plant generous amounts of parsley, thyme, mint, oregano, sage, dill, fennel, lemongrass, coriander, basil and all your other favourites and turn your garden into a walk-in deli-cum-health shop for yourself and your furry best friend.