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Like many of you, I’ve spent more than a few hours lately in the garden, pulling weeds and getting it into shape for summer. Many of us know of cat-friendly strategies for the garden (planting lots of catmint, or erecting cat fencing, for example), but we don’t always remember what NOT to do in the garden to ensure our cats are happy and safe out there.

Recently, the ASPCA published a guide to pet-safe gardening that reminds and educates about the dangers that might be lurking in your flower beds. Even if your cats are indoor-only, maintaining a pet-safe garden will ensure that neighbor cats and feral cats are safe on your property.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) experts field tens of thousands of calls each year involving animal companions whove had potentially hazardous contact with insecticides, weed killers and pet-toxic plants.

“Keeping animals safe from accidental poisonings should not end once you’ve stepped outside,” says Dana Farbman, APCC pet poison prevention expert. “Protecting your pet from potential hazards in your yard is just as critical.”
While gardens and yards are lovely for relaxing, they can also prove dangerous for our animal companions.

Our experts recommend you watch out for the following:

Poisonous Plants
When designing and planting your green space, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that many popular outdoor plantsincluding sago palm, rhododendron and azaleaare toxic to cats and dogs. Sago palm and other members of the Cycad family as well as mushrooms can cause liver failure, while rhododendron, azalea, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove and kalanchoe all affect the heart. Please visit our full listand pics!of toxic and non-toxic plants for your garden.

Fertilizer
Just like you, plants need food. But pet parents, take carethe fertilizer that keeps our plants healthy and green can wreak havoc on the digestive tracts of our furry friends. Ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give your pet a good case of stomach upset and may result in life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and observe the appropriate waiting period before letting your pet run wild outside.

Insecticides
Like fertilizer, herbicides, insecticide baits, sprays and granules are often necessary to keep our gardens healthy, but their ingredients aren’t meant for four-legged consumption. The most dangerous forms of pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poisons. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areasand read the manufacturer’s label carefully for proper usage and storage.

Compost
You’re doing the right thing for your garden and Mother Earthyou’re composting! Food and garden waste make excellent additions to garden soil, but depending on what you’re tossing in the compost bin, they can also pose problems for our pets. Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats, so read up on people foods to avoid feeding your pet.

Fleas and Ticks
Since fleas and ticks lurk in tall brush and grasses, it’s important to keep those lawns mowed and trim. Fleas can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots and tapeworms as well as anemia from blood loss in both cats and dogs. Ticks can cause similar effects and lead to a variety of complications from tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Babesia.

Garden Tools
Unattended garden tools may seem like no big deal, but rakes, tillers, hoes and trowels can be hazardous to pets and cause trauma to paws, noses or other parts of a curious pet’s body. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. While cats don’t appear to be as susceptible as dogs to tetanus, care should be taken by storing all unused tools in a safe area, not haphazardly strewn on the ground.

Allergy-Causing Flora
Ah-choo! Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets have allergies to foods, dust and even plants. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can even cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock if the reaction is severe. If you do suspect your pet has an allergy, please don’t give him any medication that isn’t prescribed by a veterinarian. It’s also smart to keep your pet out of other people’s yards, especially if you’re unsure of what kinds of plants or flowers lurk there. Keeping your pet off the lawn of others will make for healthy pets and happy neighbors.

If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic from your garden or yard, please contact your veterinarian or the APCC 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.

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