University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
GARDEN FOR CATS
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
many people want to keep cats out of the garden, if you'd rather
in, here are a few ideas for plants and structures, as well as what
to avoid. Giving cats their own space may help keep them
out of your flower beds and vegetable plot.
live near a road, in an urban area, or even rural one with wild
animals nearby in
fields and woods, you may want to make your area for cats secure.
Fencing is the means for this, just make sure
it is high enough, strong enough if they try to climb it, anchored
or buried so
they can’t dig under, and has openings not wider than two inches.
You may angle the tops inward so, if they do
reach the top of the mesh fence, they can’t really get over. Watch
for nearby high areas from which they
can jump over a fence.
or not you need to make your cat area secure, you definitely want to
possible hazards secure and off limits behind shut doors. This
includes chemicals such as pesticides,
oil, and antifreeze. Don’t use slug
baits around plants. Make sure if cats
can play around cars that they don’t sleep under them, potentially
chemicals on their fur or worse, being there if the car moves.
cats will want to eat, sleep, and play in their garden, the plants
bedraggled, bent, or broken. So, you'll probably want to tuck the
a garage or in a corner of the yard. It's also a good idea to
isolate it from
favorite flowers or your vegetable crops, and away from streets that
dangerous if not just scary to cats with all their noises.
not all cats respond the same way to all so-called cat aphrodisiacs,
go crazy over catnip (Nepeta cataria). Long before anyone
that this plant, a native of Europe, triggered a response in cats,
it was used
for tea and as a medicinal herb to treat a number of ailments. It is
to be an effective mosquito repellent. Plant catnip in full sun in
soil. Plants will grow to a height of 12
inches or more (provided cats don’t chew them down), producing tiny
flowers beginning in early summer.
cats also will adore catmint (Nepeta mussinii), which induces
frenzies in them. The plant has silvery leaves, and flowers ranging
from white to dark blue, depending on cultivar (cultivated variety).
compact plants make a nice place for an afternoon catnap. For best
results, grow in a sunny location.
cat's garden would be complete without cat thyme (Teucrium marum)
valerian (Valeriana officinalis). The first is a member of
family and has deep green leaves and purple spires. A Mediterranean
is not hardy in cold climates. If
planted in full sun in a moist, well-drained spot it may grow to
heights of one
to two feet. It is related to the herb germander, not the herb
thyme, so its
common name is misleading.
a sedative for humans but a stimulant for cats, is an attractive
fern-like foliage and fragrant pink, white, or lavender flowers. At
plants may reach heights of three to four feet. Valerian can be
grown in sun or
partial shade and is not particular fussy about soil conditions.
plants that cats may fancy include creeping rosemary and the tender
(the same as used in cooking). Both
aren’t hardy in cold climates. If buying
any plants for cats, and not starting them yourself from seeds, just
with your retailer that pesticides haven’t been used on them.
there are plants to include, there are plants to avoid in the cat
they may be toxic to felines.
Keep them away from azaleas, caladium, castor bean, chrysanthemums,
daffodils, elephant ears, foxglove, hosta, iris, ivies, lilies and
tiger lilies, morning glory, pinks (Dianthus) and lily of the
others. A more complete listing can be
found online (www.aspca.org).
addition to planting a smorgasbord of favorite plants, be sure to
leave a patch
of loose dirt for rolling and digging. Compost is sometimes even
dirt for cats, but if you use this in a good flower bed be aware
that they may
use this for a litter box! You can put some wire mesh under mulch or
flower beds to make it less attractive.
some shade with a small teepee of boards or half a plastic culvert,
bottom few inches in the soil so it won't collapse in heavy rain or
wind or by
roughhousing by playful cats. The culvert or similar structure also
secure hideout for them, or protection if being chased. It saves
getting stuck up a tree! Just make sure it is not too large for
small kids to
climb in and get stuck. It also provides cover in bad weather, as
does an open
area under porch or nearby shed.
also like to be up high to survey their world, so add a perch if you
a wall or picnic table. If you have some
form of fence, add a board or two at various heights for shelves. A
with board on top not only supports vines but gives cats a walking
like to explore, so create some interesting places for them. This
could be as simple as a grouping of pots
on a patio, or some shrubs to hide under awaiting possible bugs or
cats like to scratch, consider adding a scratching post such as a
post, or post wrapped in roping or even old carpet. If they take to
scratching on your favorite
tree, you’ll need to encircle the trunk with hardware cloth wire
adding a water feature like small pond for drinking water for your
However, if you put in fish, you may need to place a net just under
surface to protect
them! Some cats like to play in moving water, as with
small fountains and water cascades.
have bird feeders near your garden, make sure that they are high
enough so the
cats can't climb up to get birds. I put mine on a pole so I can
them down, or on a pulley and rope to lower them, when I need to
cats like to nibble on grass. So, include some nice grassy plants in
garden or leave a patch of unmown grass near the garden for
munching, just make
sure the grass you leave isn’t treated with pesticides. You can buy
kitty grass kits at many pet
outlets, or simply sow some oat seeds.
You’ll find these at feed stores and at full-service garden stores
they also are used for garden cover crops. A small patch of grass in
spot may afford a favorite place for kitty to sunbathe.