Garden Design for the Family Pet Too

There are two important days in August that your kids probably know about, even if you don’t. They are International Cat Day (August 8) and International Dog Day (August 26). These whimsical days of celebration shine light on the furry (unshaven dad whiskers don’t count) members in your family. We’d like to draw attention to one part of home life that may not consider them – your backyard garden. Does it really require an update to accommodate your cat or dog? Absolutely! And you can use this as an opportunity to teach your kids even more about sustainable garden design. Below are some things your children can add (and remove) from the garden to make it more welcoming for the entire family.

3 Ways Your Kids Can Make Your Family’s Backyard Garden More Welcoming to Their Beloved Pets

Pull Potentially Hazardous Plants 

Few gardeners realize that there are common plants that can be poisonous to cats and dogs. And no, these aren’t species you find in the Amazon jungle. Many are found in backyard gardens across Canada. While they may be great for attracting pollinators, you don’t want to do so at the expense of your precious pet’s health. The ASPCA has identified human-safe species that could threaten your pet. If you have any of the following in your garden, have your children pull them, replant (or donate) them elsewhere, and replace them with pet-safe alternatives:

  • Aloe vera
  • Amaryllis
  • Autumn Crocus
  • Azalea
  • Baby’s Breath
  • Begonia
  • Castor Bean
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodil
  • English Ivy
  • Gladiola
  • Holly
  • Kalanchoe
  • Lilies
  • Milkweed
  • Narcissus Bulbs
  • Oleander 
  • Peace Lily
  • Pathos
  • Rhododendron
  • Schefflera
  • Tomato plant
  • Tulip
  • Yew

Create Pet Play Areas (away from your garden)

While you want to create a pet-friendly garden space, you don’t actually want your cat or dog mucking about in the mulch. Keep their attention occupied elsewhere by building a small playground for them in the yard. This is an opportunity to supplement your child’s gardening skills with sustainable architectural know-how. All they need is some reclaimed wood, rope, textiles (old carpet, etc.), and scrap items (unused toys, broken furniture, etc.) from around the house that can be repurposed accordingly. That, and a healthy dose of creativity.

For cats, your kids can build climbing structures along with cubbyholes and dens. For dogs, a DIY doghouse makes sense as a place for them to “hang out”, even if they sleep indoors in the kids room. Dogs also enjoy frolicking on hardscaping, and if you have the space your kids can create a dog-run along the side of your house. Hardscaping materials such as gravel and natural stepping stones are a great option and will help keep them from trouncing on the garden. Hardscaping is also preferred (to landscaping) by your pets when they need to relief themselves. It will be much easier for your kids to scoop “it” off of gravel than from the grass and garden.   

Add Water

Your garden needs water, and so does your cat or dog. If you want them to enjoy the outdoors more (which will encourage your kids to join them) then provide more access to water in your yard. We know this can be a challenge in the summer months, especially as municipalities  place restrictions on watering, but you can employ some of the same drought-resistant tactics to keep fresh water in your garden at all times. 

This can be accomplished by introducing rain barrels in your yard. The collected rainwater can then be used to maintain not only your garden, but to fill pet bowls too. Not only is this a very effective solution, it is fun for your child. They can decorate and paint the rain barrels so that they blend in perfectly with their colorful yard and garden space. Place the cat/dog dish near the nozzle and put your kids in charge of keeping it full. Learn more about how to conserve water for garden maintenance.


We hope you enjoyed our tips to maintaining a garden space that is welcoming to ALL members of your household. If you have any ideas of your own, we’d love to hear about them! Feel free to reach out and comment on Facebook.