How to Create a Pet-friendly Backyard

Even if your pet stays mostly indoors, at some point you’ll want to take them out back for a breath of fresh air and sunshine. However, before you venture forth, you’ll want to make sure that your yard is safe, secure, and comfortable. 

While some of you might be owners of non-traditional pets, such ferrets, iguanas, parrots, and snakes, in this blog we’ll focus on the Big Two: cats and dogs. For now, we’ve also limited our pet-friendly recommendations for the warm weather months.  

Secure the Space 

If your backyard isn’t already fenced-in, it’s an investment seriously worth considering. If there’s an existing fence, The American Kennel Club recommends that you extend it by adding a section to the top that tilts inward. 

Also, take a quick look around the backyard to make sure that items like boxes, chairs and trash cans aren’t too close to any fencing, as they would make it easy for your pet to climb up and out. Coyote rollers installed along the top of your fence are another way to prevent your pet from getting a foothold on the fence. If your pet is a “digger” versus a “climber,” attach chicken wire along the bottom of the fencing and be sure it extends a foot or so below the surface of the ground.  

Make sure all the latches on gates and fences are secure. If you have a gate, be sure it has a lock or hook-and-eye closure. 

As a rule, cats are more difficult to contain since they’re capable of wiggling through very tiny spaces (they have floating collar bones that make them capable of passing through anything as wide as their heads). Companies such as ProtectAPet offer cat-specific fencing solutions as well as “catios” for keeping your feline secure. Also, since cats are natural climbers, perhaps a tall scratching post with a perch on top might be a smart addition.  

Pick Your Plantings 

Planting a short hedge along the inside of the fence line is a wonderful way to keep both diggers and climbers inside. As a rule, you should grow plants in pots so they’re less likely to get dug up. And while cats love grass (they nibble it to bring up hairballs), dog owners might consider putting an alternative ground covering such as cedar chips or coconut fibers in part of the yard to prevent urine damage to the rest of the lawn.  

Above all, be careful what you plant, since certain shrubs, plants and grasses can be toxic, especially to dogs. You can check whether a plant is safe or not on the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants

Consider Their Comfort 

Cats and dogs can be highly sensitive to heat. Never leave your pets alone outdoors for extended periods and ensure they always have access to fresh water in a bowl they cannot knock over. Also, keep in mind that concrete and asphalt surfaces can get extremely hot in the spring and summer months so it’s important that there’s a patch of grass or other ground covering for them to lie down on. It’s essential to provide pets with some type of shelter from the full sun. Consider buying one of the pop-up canopies available at many online retailers and pet stores.  

Your pet also needs a place to relieve itself. For a dog, this could be a designated spot in the backyard with a suitable ground cover like cedar chips or gravel. A covered outdoor litter box would be fine for a cat, but if your kids have a sandbox, be sure there’s also a cover for that! 

Additionally, keep in mind that cats LOVE “hiding places” like large plant pots where they can curl up and relax in privacy. On the other hand, dogs are pack animals and will become anxious if they’re left alone for too long. Dogs love features like a tree stump or rock so they can “mark” their territory. And just about every pet will appreciate a few toys.  

Make Sure They’re Safe 

Make sure your pet can’t get access to places (like the garage) where toxic chemicals, gasoline, and sharp tools are stored. Keep up to date with your pet’s vaccinations and medications, especially in areas where pests like mosquitos are present. Fertilizers are another potential source of harm: if you’ve recently planted a vegetable or flower garden, take precautions (such as installing temporary barriers) to keep your pet away. 

Want some more ideas for settling into your abode? Or getting to know your new city? Be sure to check out our blog. 

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