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10
May

Making Peace with Cats and Plants

Plants and flowers are a terrific and easy way to brighten up a house and add a splash of color. If you have cats, though, you may want to check into whether or not certain plants or flowers are safe for your feline friends. Some cats have no interest in them and that’s great. But a lot of cats inspect everything that comes into “their” home and you know what they say—curiosity killed the cat. No one wants that, but they are indeed curious little creatures. It’s also part of their DNA. Before they were domesticated, cats caught their own food and supplemented their meat with leafy greens from the wild. High-quality diets now contain everything they need to stay healthy but the cats don’t know that. They can still feel that innate desire to hunt and find food. (Also, plants with a lot of dirt in a pot or a garden may also be seen by cats as a luxurious litter box.)

Ferns, holly, ivy, tulips, lilies, azaleas, chrysanthemums, mistletoe, oleander and poinsettias are just a few of the plants to avoid both inside and outside. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry and just remove a plant. You can easily substitute fake plants (there are some really nice looking ones!) and you can also put out plants that you know cats like. Specifically, you can’t go wrong with cat grass or catnip plants! It fills their need to find their own veggies and it does add some greenery to the house!

For a more complete list of plants toxic to cats, click here or consult with your veterinarian.  

13
Jun

Landscaping for Four-legged Family Members

When you move into your dream home, chances are you’ve also taken your pets into consideration before signing on the dotted line. If you have a dog, your yard is probably a pretty important part of selecting a house. Some people call landscaping with pets in mind “petscaping” or “dogscaping” but the fancy names don’t mean you have to do anything complicated. Making a few easy adjustments to your backyard with your pooch in mind can make everyone a little happier. Here are just a few suggestions to get you started.

A Place to do their Business

Homeowners often complain that they spend a lot of time watering their lawns only to have dog urine make brown dead patches. That’s the ammonia in the urine and, really, it’s not like the dog can help it. We all have to answer to Mother Nature. But you can easily “spot train” a dog to go in a designated place, so long as it’s clean and comfortable on their paws.

A Place to Run

Many dogs have an instinct to “patrol” the yard and protect it. (Of course, some dogs just need to run and burn off energy!) It’s a sweet gesture but some dogs are so diligent that they wear “tracks” around the yard where they like to run. Keep in mind that by nature dogs are territorial and pack animals so they innately want to protect their homes and their packs—that would be you. Trying to fight or curb a dog’s natural instincts usually just leads to frustration. It’s much easier to incorporate their needs into the landscape and have it look good. To create a running area or track, watch for the areas where dogs like to run and turn them into paths with surfaces like decomposed granite, mulch or pavers. Without any sort of surface the soil can get worn down and that’s a bummer.

Digging Pit

Many dogs love to dig so if you have pooches that like to get down and dirty, do them and yourself a favor and provide a digging pit. You can easily train them where they are welcome to dig or you can go an extra step and make them an area. Dig a couple of feet down and place things like sturdy toys and chews in the hole for them to discover. Reward them so they know they’re allowed to dig in “their” spot and keep replenishing the goodies so it’s always fun for them. If there is an area you don’t want them digging in, placing smooth rocks over the area can help discourage them. Or you can even bury the rocks a little bit so that when they start to dig and hit the rocks, they can go no further. (Please do not use anything that a dog can catch its nails on or possibly injure itself.)

Fencing

All dogs need adequate fencing to keep them safe and inside your yard. Unfortunately, some dogs love adventure and are prone to hop fences. To help keep dogs from escaping, consider an extra tall fence that helps discourage jumpers and climbers. Similarly, keep the bottom of the fence secure and make sure the foundation is deep so they can’t dig out from underneath. Anything that they can use as a springboard, such as picnic tables or lawn chairs, should also stay far, far away from fencing. Dogs are clever and it’s amazing what they can come up with when it comes to bolting out of a yard.

Swimming Pools

Safety fences around swimming pools have become popular in the last couple of decades and for good reason—they help keep children safe. But they can also keep dogs safe! Dogs can get tired when swimming, have trouble climbing out of a pool or even fall in unexpectedly. When supervision isn’t available, a secure gate can add an extra layer of security. Also, remember that not all dogs know how to swim. Please be very, very careful if your dog shows interest in swimming.

Organic Pesticides

Unlike humans, dogs walk around their yards without shoes, which means their feet can pick up whatever is on the ground. At some point, of course, dogs clean themselves and lick their paws. To keep lawns green and healthy without sacrificing pet safety, try topdressing with topsoil, grasscycling or using organic fertilizer. Because fertilizers need some time to dissolve, irrigate immediately.

For Older or Special Needs Dogs

Dogs age like humans do, which means mobility might be hindered as they get older. Similarly, some dogs require wheelchairs or have medical issues, such as hip dysplasia. A flat, smooth walking surface is best for these dogs.

You don’t need to be a master gardener to landscaper to create a backyard oasis for your dogs. Just some essentials and you are good to go!

Dogscaping basics:

Shade

Shelter

Fencing

Space to exercise

Potty area

Access to clean water