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10 Neat Things About Pets in the Garden

and some you should be aware of....
by Dorothy Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

August 1, 2016

1. Grass eater.

The consensus among vets is that some dogs sometimes eat grass to induce vomiting when they have an upset stomach. Un-chewed grass tickles the lining of the stomach to trigger gagging. This is not the only reason dogs eat grass, though, and many dogs eat grass frequently without ever becoming sick. Animal behaviourists have noticed that grass-eaters who are not sick chew before they swallow whereas the gaggers don't chew. Non-therapeutic grazing may stem from a desire to supplement the diet with the nutrients in grass. Or, the dog might just like the taste.

2. Would my dog eat that?

It was once believed that dogs were sufficiently in tune with nature to not eat poisonous plants, and this may have been true in ancient times when neither dogs nor plants were selectively bred for our own arcane purposes and before the introduction of kibble. However, some dogs are known to sample just about everything in the garden. The good news is that, while plants vary widely in toxicity, few are so poisonous as to kill a dog with just a nibble. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to monitor your dog in the garden until it learns not to eat flowers.

3. Castor beans are the most toxic plant.

For pets and humans, ingesting any part of the castor bean plant ( Ricinus) can prove fatal. Don't grow it around indiscriminate pets or people.

4. Cast away cats with cayenne?

Although sprinkling cayenne on flowerbeds will discourage cats, it is not harmless. Cayenne can get into the eyes of animals and cause serious and lasting pain. If that isn't sufficient to convince you not to use it, consider this: it could blow into gardeners' eyes too. There are other, safer animal repellents to try.

5. Digging deterrent.

Mulch can discourage cats from digging in your garden, but it has to be the right kind of mulch. Sharp stone works well, but you may not care for the look of it; pinecones also work well, but they are too acidic for some gardens. If there's a particular area the cats frequent, try laying some chicken wire on the ground (it can be hidden with a layer of soil or any kind of mulch) or putting a few nails in the area. (Remember there are nails there the next time you go to dig with a trowel, though!)

6. Killer cocao mulch.

If you have a dog with pica (a compulsion to eat all kinds of objects) it might ingest enough cocoa hulls to kill itself. Apparently, 98 percent of dogs don't eat cocoa mulch, though. Nonetheless, there are many kinds of excellent mulch available, and cocoa mulch is particularly high in the toxin that affects dogs. Though the risk is small, it hardly seems worth it.

7. Piss-off scaredy-cats.

Plectranthus canina, marketed as "Piss-off" or "Scaredy-cat", is supposed to detract cats, dogs and rabbits by its citrus scent. Internet research show much more excitement about the claims from folks who sell the plant than reports of efficacy from folks who've used the plants. It might help a little - so does scattering fresh citrus peel in the garden - but it's no silver bullet for gardeners plagued by unwanted pet visits.

8. Unpleasant presents.

Cat poop in the garden is NOT a serious health risk. Sure, it's possible that there are parasites in the cat feces that could make you sick, but that's if you eat it, or if you handle it then wipe your nose, mouth or eyes before washing your hands. More than anything, cat poop is unpleasant to come across by surprise. Cat urine, however, can be a problem for pregnant women, potentially leading to toxoplasmosis. Pregnant women should take precautions against contact with cat urine.

9. Connoisseuring cats snub catnip plants.

Some cats are crazy for it, but about one-third of cats couldn't care less if you offer them catnip in any form. Nonetheless, Nepeta (the botanical name for this pretty blue-flowering plant) is an attractive enough plant. If you want to provide a cat area in your garden, it's worth a try next to a sand box or some nice, loose soil.

10. Dogs have no shame.

Scattering bread cubes in the garden can detract dogs from defecating there. The theory is that dogs won't poop where they eat. Dogs aren't always great theorists, though.

- Dorothy Dobbie Copyright© Pegasus Publications Inc. Read the latest issue of The Hub

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