Many of us take the time to ensure our gardens are enjoyable places for us during the warm spring/summer months but how many of us are making them great spots for our cats too?
Gardens can provide a wonderful additional space for your cat to explore, play and exercise.
Why is an enriching outdoor space important for cats?
Providing a cat-friendly garden or outdoor space has a number of benefits for your cat. It provides independence and stimulation, means your cat is less likely to be bored or frustrated while in the house and makes them healthier and more active. If you have more than one cat then an adequate outdoor space can diffuse tension and ensure they’re best of pals too!
Here, we’ll look at the top 10 ways to create the perfect cat-friendly garden.
How to create a safe garden for your cat
There are a number of things to consider when creating the perfect garden for your cat:
1. Provide hiding spots
An open garden may make your cat feel a little vulnerable or exposed. Cats are prey animals as well as hunters so they’ll want to know that they have somewhere to go in the event of any perceived danger.
Providing a hiding spot right next to the door or cat flap can help your cat feel more confident when going outside. Shrubs or bushes, garden furniture or even a box or rockery can give kitty something to hide behind until she’s made sure the coast is clear.
2. Offer levels
Cats enjoy being at height. When they can oversee their territory they feel safer and more secure. So, when you’re designing your cat-friendly garden, consider providing different levels that can act as lookout points. Cat climbers, platforms and outdoor scratching posts can create a multi-level playground that your cat will love.
3. Provide shelter
If we could guarantee year-round sunshine for our cats then we’d do it but, with being a UK resident, comes the likelihood of wind, rain and snow. Provide a sheltered spot where your cat can warm-up or stay dry if the weather strikes while they’re out.
4. Make sure there are sunny spots
It might not always feel like it but we do get good weather in this country from time to time too! Cats love nothing more than sprawling out in the sunshine so be sure to provide a comfortable, uncovered sunny spot where they can lap up those rays.
5. Provide a cat toilet
Cats are clean animals and will always choose an area far away from their food and water to do their business. Providing a cat latrine is a great idea if you’d rather your cat didn’t use a litter tray in the house. Wood chip or sand are ideal textures and if you can surround the area with some shrubs or plants (so that your cat feels safe and unobserved) then you have the perfect cat toilet.
6. Offer drinking water
Cats are notoriously particular about where they will and won’t drink water from so providing the option for some fresh water outside could be hugely beneficial. A large dish left to collect rain water will do the trick and if you have more than one cat, multiple dishes, bowls or water sources can help to keep the peace.
7. Include a natural scratching post
Cats scratch to keep their claws in good condition, to mark their territory and to feel more secure in their surroundings. An old tree stump or large piece of wood will look innocuous in your garden but provide stimulation and comfort for your cat.
8. Ensure there are places to play
Cats need to get outside to explore, play and let off any excess energy so providing a designated play areas is a sure-fire way to make your garden cat friendly. As well as levels and tree stumps, you could consider tunnels, swings and cat toys. The added bonus is, when you look out of the window, you get to see your beloved moggy having a great time!
9. Consider a specially made cat house
A specially made cat house can tick off a number of the items in this list in one go. Shelter, play and a sunspot - the right cat house can do it all and more. You could buy these online or you could create it yourself. If it has a roof and an area underneath with a comfortable cushion, you’re already on your way there. If there are levels and the opportunity for play, your cat will be very happy indeed.
10. Grow cat-friendly plants and flowers
Providing cat-friendly plants and vegetation (and avoiding anything toxic), will make your garden the perfect outdoor sanctuary for your cat. Read on for more…
Cat-friendly garden plants
There are a number of plants that cats love and are perfectly safe. When planting your cat-friendly garden, consider using:
- Grass – ordinary grass is harmless to your cat, very easy to grow and will provide a great space for them to roll and play.
- Catnip – some cats love catnip. The effects aren’t proven but it’s thought that 50-70% of cats are positively stimulated by the stuff.
- Cat mint – a relative of catnip, this attractive purple plant is appealing to your feline and will look nice in your garden too.
- Valerian – this attractive flower is thought to potentially have a calming affect on your cat.
- Cat thyme – this small shrub needs plenty of sunlight to flourish so avoid the shady spots. It’s very appealing to cats and has a minty scent.
Cat-friendly climbing plants
Climbing plants can provide shelter and play for your cat and many of them are very easy to grow.
- Sunflowers – these beautiful flowers are easy to grow. They provide cover and, when placed next to climbing structures, can be fun too.
- Runner beans – runner beans provide shade and hideaway spots. They’re considered non-toxic too, so you won’t have to worry if your cat has a nibble.
- Honeysuckle – these beautiful flowering vines are thought to have a similar effect to cat nip for some cats
Plants that can be poisonous to cats
While you’re planning the perfect garden, it’s important to keep in mind that a number of flowers and plants are toxic to cats. Avoid the following:
- Aloe vera
- Lillies (Asian, climbing, day, rubrum and tiger lillies are toxic to cats)
The final word
Spending time with your cat in the garden is a great way to bond, particularly for cats who don’t enjoy being picked up or petted for long periods of time. A cat-friendly garden will encourage them to stay close to home, provide enrichment and stimulation and mean you can always find them when you need them. Have fun!