Cat-friendly gardensPosted on: 23 August 2018 by 50connect editorial
It's that time of year again when gardeners across the country are exercising their creative and practical energies to design a beautiful garden for the enjoyment of family and friends during the warmer months.
It's that time of year again when gardeners across the country are exercising their creative and practical energies to design a beautiful garden for the enjoyment of family and friends during the coming warmer months. It's also the right time to consider our pets' interest in outdoor living areas according to Judy Bernstein, Head of Promotions at Cats Protection. "A creatively-designed garden with your feline's needs in mind can bring hours of pleasure to puss and owner alike," Judy said. "It doesn't have to cost a lot. It's a question of thinking through what is suitable and fun for your cat given his age and interests and then planning accordingly."
Cats Protection is offering gardeners the following design tips to create a cat-friendly outdoor space this summer:
General design features
Cats love warmth. Providing some sunny, accessible and preferably high vantage points around the garden for them to soak up the rays and peacefully watch the world go by would be good (see warning about sun damage in Potential Hazards below). Tiles and brick are ideal materials for such places as they remain warm after the sun has set.
Trees and plants
Cats like scratching the bark of trees. This doesn't damage established trees but saplings will benefit from plastic coated mesh tied around their lower trunks. Consider providing a big log for puss to use as a scratching post. This might help to save indoor furniture too.
Cats love the exotic climbing plant Actinidia Kolomikta, catnip, cocksfoot and cat mint. They also enjoy having places to hide in and/or covered walkways created through clever planting of shrubs and plants. These can also provide shade for pets on hot, sunny days.
Avoid growing deadly nightshade, lily of the valley, laburnum and foxglove as these plants are all potentially harmful to cats.
Try to use safe non-toxic materials for any garden projects. Take extreme care when using pesticides as a cat could ingest them when cleaning himself causing pain and suffering. Slug pellets should similarly be avoided as many are dangerous to animals. It is worth shopping around for harmless, non-toxic gardening alternatives.
To avoid accidental injury to quizzical cats, ensure that potentially harmful waste items such as sharp objects and unstable piles of rubbish do not accumulate in the garden.
Like humans, some cats are susceptible to sun damage particularly white cats and those whose skin is not protected by a thick coat of hair. The best advice is to keep susceptible cats in between 11 am and 3 p.m. if possible. A good hypoallergenic sun protection product containing titanium dioxide and UVA/UVB can also be used to protect a cat's sensitive areas i.e. ears and nose.
Cats need a suitable area to bury their faeces. Sandpits, gravel paths, newly dug ground with fine earth as well as mulches can all provide attractive toilet facilities for puss much to owners' dismay. Therefore, providing felines with a dug over, sheltered area in the garden where some used cat litter (containing his own scent) has been sprinkled, will encourage him to use this space rather than others.
Using larger pebble stones for gravel paths and putting a cover on the sandpit when it is not in use will discourage cats from using these areas as a toilet.
According to a recent Mammal Society survey, it is safe for cat owners to feed birds in their garden. The Mammal Society recommend provided a properly constructed bird table situated well away from cat concealing cover in order to minimise bird foraging time.
Birds can also be fed on a specially made platform positioned in the window vent of a free-standing greenhouse. Cats are unable to climb up the glass and metal exterior of a greenhouse.
Bird feeders hung over water will prevent cats catching birds from below.
Indoor cats can also benefit from a creatively designed outdoor space. An outdoor enclosed run containing a scratching log, sunny vantage points, catnip and shrubs could be ideal for a cat generally used to indoor life.
If you have a flat-topped room extension, consider making a secure and fun roof garden for an indoor cat.
Fruit cages built outside French windows surrounded by high wire netting (wobbly at the top is best to deter a cat from climbing up) and filled with shrubs, plants and logs could also make a secure outdoor environment for a cat used to living indoors.
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