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Plant a Pet Safe Garden this Spring

From the Reading, PA Eagle


Q: We live in the country, and our cats enjoy venturing outdoors on nice days. As I plan my garden, how can I avoid plants that are toxic to cats?

A: Your letter is timely, because National Poison Prevention Week's 50th anniversary begins Sunday.

You ask about pet-safe plants, but you also should ensure the safety of other elements of your garden.

For example, cocoa mulch is toxic if ingested because it contains theobromine and caffeine, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, elevated heart rate and seizures. Use a mulch of hardwood or pine instead.

Insecticides and herbicides can pose problems too. Research on phenoxy-type herbicides shows they increase the incidence of cancer. Nonphenoxy herbicides, such as Roundup, do not increase cancer risk.

Don't use slug bait that contains metaldehyde, which can be fatal to pets and wildlife. Check the Internet or your cooperative extension service for safe alternatives.

Many plants are toxic to pets, including chrysanthemums, clematis, coleus, daffodils, geranium, hibiscus, hosta, hyacinths, most ivies and lilies, peony, sweet William, tulips and vinca.

For a comprehensive list and photos of pet-safe garden plants, visit the Animal Poison Control Center at


The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine at Bernville Veterinary Clinic. Contact them at, 610-488-0166 or P.O. Box 302, Bernville, PA 19506-0302.

Finally, don't forget to plant catnip, cat thyme and cat grass for your kitties.

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