How to kitten proof your garden is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when looking at adorable kitty pics.
The arrival of kittens is an exciting event.
Cute, soft furred, cuddly; spending their time purring and sweetly chasing the toys you dangle in front of their tiny noses.
But those little bundles of fluff soon become bolder and start bouncing over your sofa.
And across your computer keyboard.
And scatter all the papers that were neatly stacked for filing.
You begin to wonder how soon they can go into the garden? Most vets will advise not until after they’ve had their injections. To be on the safe side, they’ll often need to be accompanied in the garden until they’ve been neutered.
Then the penny drops. You kitten-proofed the house, being careful to remove electric wires out of their way. But you completely forgot you’d need to kitten proof your garden!
How to Kitten Proof Your Garden – Questions to ask Yourself
How old are your Kittens?
Small kittens are more easily contained in a space; but easier to lose in the undergrowth!
What time of year will it be when they venture outside?
If its winter and cold, they may not want to stay outside very long at first.
Are there other cats in the household?
Their relationship with other felines in the family may affect how keen your kitten is to explore the garden and beyond.
Do you have a cat flap?
If your other cat/s have constant access to outside it will be more difficult to manage your kitten’s ability to exit and enter. Initially you may need to restrict your other cat’s access to the garden.
Do your kittens come running when you call them?
This isn’t about a dog-type training, but if your kitten/s love you so much that they will run to you it will make it a lot easier to prevent them from scaling the barricades you’ve set up. And of course, when they do first climb the fence and panic at the big world outside, they will respond to your voice, making it easier to track down and rescue them.
Where do you live?
Busy urban streets and fields full of cows present different issues to the exploring kitten.
How to Kitten Proof Your Garden – the Garden
A few thoughts about the boundaries, potential hazards and possible escape routes. These are likely to include: –
- Garden fences (solid)
- Trellis fences, horizontal slatted fences
- Garden walls
- Garden hedges
- Raised beds
- Ponds and water features
- Garden sheds
- Water butts and compost bins
- Garden statues
- Plants – poisonous or edible?
We are considering rear gardens here, as this is the more likely garden you’ll let your kittens into. However, there’s a section on your front garden below as they may go into that too.
How to Kitten Proof Your Garden – Boundaries
Check all fences for gaps – really small gaps as kitten’s heads are small. Gaps may be at the base of a fence or where a fence panel meets a post. You may need to clamber into the shrubbery in order to check everything.
Trellis fences and horizontal slatted fences pose a different issue. They are ladders, enabling kittens to easily climb a fence they wouldn’t normally be able to until they were bigger. If your trellis fence is covered with thorny stemmed climbing roses it may not be a problem. What are your options otherwise? Well, if there are no climbing plants on the trellis (perhaps its winter and you normally grow mange tout or sweet peas up them) then you could cover them. This could be with boarding or membrane. Horticultural fleece can a useful cover if you have climbers on the trellis. But do remember it’s an insulator, so it may have to be that you drape the fleece over the trellis and plants when you know the kittens will be in the garden. the other option is to lift your kitten off the trellis if they try to climb up it.
Gates in the rear garden generally match the type of fencing you have. The issue will whether this creates an easy climb for your kitten. Tacking membrane over the gate is a simple solution that can be easily removed as your kitten grows.
How to Kitten Proof Your Garden – Structures and Sundries
Some people do not have a cat flap in their back door, possibly they do not have a back door, just bi-fold patio doors. Instead they have one in their garden shed door, which provides access to a warm, dry, safe location when humans are not around. If you intend to take up this option, then you’ll need to sure that the interior of the shed is kitten proof.
Greenhouses can offer a safe environment for kittens to start exploring. You can get on with some gardening and the kittens can see out as well as creep under greenhouse staging.
A neat stack of pots next to a folded-up BBQ, next to a water butt, next to a fence. Equals a nice easy route for your kitten to explore your neighbour’s garden. And probably get stuck in there as there’s no convenient jumping up place. There’s no point moving the water butt, although you should move the other items that help make it an easy egress.
Statues and large pots are at risk of being knocked over by playful kittens, especially if you have more than one! Square pots and cylindrical pots are less likely to come crashing down (and potentially injuring kitten or you) than those with narrow bases.
Statues, unless very heavy, would be best secured. And look closely at that statue. Is it yet another kitten climbing frame?
How to Kitten Proof Your Garden – Plants, Poisonous or Edible?
This is not an in depth look at what is and isn’t kitten friendly planting. Some plants are obvious, some are going to depend on how much of a nibbler your kittens are. Remember that as they mature, cats generally will nibble fewer plants. The initial nibbles are often to do with learning and exploring, just as they would be with a human baby and toddler.
Lilies are an obvious no-no that most people know to avoid. You may find you’re ok. I always have been with my cats, but these two new kittens are into trying EVERYTHING. So my lilies are being enjoyed by my currently cat-less daughter for the kittens first summer. just to be on the safe side…
Now, I could give you a list of about 400 plants, some of which you may be growing in your garden or as houseplants. But you’re not going to be able to demand that your neighbour stops growing daffodils because they’re toxic to your kitten who will visit their garden. Yes, you did read that right, all parts of the daffodil, or Narcissus, are toxic to some degree or another to cats, dogs and humans of all ages.
Word of warning, some of the lists you find on google are not accurate. For example, I have seen Rosemary cited as poisonous to cats because of its volatile oils. Well, yes it would give them a stomach upset if they ate a quantity of rosemary leaves. It wouldn’t do me much good either! But I doubt that either my kittens or I could keep eating strong tasting Rosemary to make ourselves ill.
Tomato leaves, all parts of Yew (Taxus baccata) and most flowers which grow from bulbs and corms are contenders to make your kitten ill. However, I will go through some of the more likely plants that you may like to exercise caution about in another blog as it is too large a subject for here. Keep an eye on the plants your small kitten is nibbling and stop them from eating anything you are not sure about.
How to Kitten Proof Your Garden – Front Gardens
You may not let your kitten out in to the front garden until they’re much older, and less likely to run straight for the road. But when you do, much of the suggestions above are relevant.
There are a few items which can cause issues. Fences and garden walls are often substantially lower in a front garden, therefore so much easier for a kitten to climb over. Gates can be a problem as they often have gaps which are large enough for a kitten to sneak through. Or you may not have any boundaries at all!
One way to encourage safe first ventures out into both your rear and front gardens is to let the kittens out just before meal time and have two people there. Kittens are always hungry and should come racing back to your voice and the promise of food.
Kittens are far more inquisitive then mature cats so you need to look around your garden, the garden shed, greenhouse and so on very carefully. Crawling around to get down to the kittens’ eye level can be helpful.
If you would like Plews to help kitten proof your garden and create one that will easily evolve into a cat friendly garden, please get in touch!
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