Pet-friendly backyard is important

With the days getting longer and warmer, we all want more time outdoors, especially in our backyards. And that includes dogs and cats.

Dogs need outdoor spaces that allow them to run and play. The size of the space depends on the size of the dog.

Cats need outdoor spaces as well, but more important than their size is to know whether they are primarily indoor or outdoor cats (or somewhere in between).

Both Teddy, our 7-year-old Lab, and Pip, our 2-year-old Tuxedo cat, like being outside. They spent a good bit of last summer exploring every inch of our third-of-an-acre backyard. Teddy moved freely while Pip was on a leash.

But don’t just let your furry creatures go exploring before taking stock of what might be growing out back. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a detailed list of outside plants, shrubs and trees that are safe. Another list focuses on indoor plants.

As the ASPCA also notes in its digest of plants that most dogs and cats could frequently encounter, some have been reported to have intense effects on an animal’s gastrointestinal tract. It’s not an all-inclusive list, but a helpful guide.

In our backyard we have hostas, day lilies, begonias, black-eyed Susans and the like. All are either poisonous to Teddy or Pip or both. The question we had to ask ourselves was, “Do Teddy or Pip eat or play with those plants or any others?” Thankfully, neither does.

Teddy is a digger of dirt. He has a few favorite places in our backyard where he moves small piles of mulch and dirt around. So far, Teddy hasn’t unearthed anything of interest except worms. He doesn’t eat them, thank goodness.

Pip is a ground-sniffing cat out to find chipmunks and any other small woodland creatures. All he has to show for his efforts are flecks of dirt and mulch stuck in his fur.

On the other hand, Teddy and Pip both regularly eat grass.

According to, dogs, domesticated and wild, do dine on grass. Although most experts agree that grazing isn’t harmful, certain herbicides and pesticides used on lawns can be toxic, especially if ingested.

Teddy rarely munches grass in our backyard, but he does on the daily walks he takes with my husband, Ed. The canine has culinary standards, though. He only nibbles on newly sprouted grass.

Again according to, most cats, both the indoor and outdoor variety, have eaten grass. To this date, there is no evidence to suggest this is harmful, and it may actually be good for Pip.

One such theory purports that grass acts as a natural laxative, neutralizing any cases of stomach upset Pip may have. The feline rarely throws up a hairball, but when he does, there is usually grass in the mix.

As with dogs, most herbicides and pesticides are harmful to cats.

In short, as we get our backyard ready for outdoor activities throughout the summer with family and friends, it’s important that we keep Teddy and Pip’s needs in mind, too.

If you’d like to create a garden for your pets check out: Herb ‘N’ Living: Growing a Home Garden for Your Pet on

If you believe that your animal may have ingested a poisonous substance contact either your local veterinarian or the APCC 24‑hour emergency poison hotline at 888‑426‑4435.

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