Are your cats chewing on every indoor plant you own and begging for a taste of the outdoors or a patch of grass to roam around on? Most cat owners try getting their pets to lead an indoors-only lifestyle only to deal with a countless number of attempted escapes and ruined houseplants. Of course, you can't blame the cats for their behavior. Nibbling on fresh greens is just instinct!

If you’re thinking about expanding your cat’s territory, consider creating a feline-friendly garden space for them to safely enjoy during the warm summer months. You'll improve the quality of their lives and gain some personal enjoyment from watching them explore a new area.

Examine Your Existing Space

Whether you’re looking to set up a free-range situation for your cats or simply planning on building them an outdoor enclosure, you’ll need to give your backyard a quick safety inspection beforehand. Does your yard have a fence or another kind of barrier around it to keep your pets from wandering off? If so, will your cat be able to jump over or wiggle through that barrier? Remember that even the highest fences can be climbed by a sneaky cat that has access to nearby trees.

When determining if your yard will make a suitable second home for your cat or kitten, you’ll also need to take some more overt hazards into account. Do you keep toxic chemicals out in the open or have a water fountain or pond that poses a potential drowning threat? While many cat owners already consider their felines to be a part of the family, it's still important to create safe spaces for them like you would for a small child.

Select Cat-Friendly Plant Varieties

cat and catnip

Everyone knows that kittens love cat grass and catnip, but cats can also be tempted to nibble on toxic plant varieties sometimes. When planning your outdoor “catio” or garden space, you’ll want to double-check that every plant in the area is safe for pets to eat. If some of these plants just can’t be removed, you may have to stick to keeping your cats in an outdoor enclosure. Trust us, it's better than a trip to the vet’s office.

When it comes to selecting the plants that cats enjoy, on the other hand, you shouldn't feel limited to the varieties sold in pet stores. A lot of your favorite vegetables, herbs, and florals are actually safe to plant around felines and can be as tasty as a patch of catnip to them! Sunflowers can provide them with both overhead shade and a maze to navigate through, while ornamental grasses make for good hiding spots and the occasional afternoon snack. Herbs such as dill, mint, sage, and basil are also pet-friendly and provide cats with a buffet of sorts — some cats are so attracted to these herbs that they roll around in them to pick up their scent. Showy blooms like cosmos, bachelors buttons, and snapdragons are also good choices for a pet-friendly garden, as they're non-toxic and great visual stimuli.

Reconsider How You’ll Fight Pests and Weeds

Creating a safe space for cats to roam around in means having to rethink the chemicals you're using in your garden. Weedkillers and pesticides can easily end up on delicate paws and be tracked into your home on furry coats or whiskers. Not to mention the fact that these chemicals, if ingested directly or later on during grooming, can cause some serious health problems for your kittens.

If you want your pets to be able to freely come in and out of the house, you’ll need to consider alternative ways to manage weeds and pests. If your garden suffers from bug problems, try using a natural pesticide like diatomaceous earth. Rodent problem? You're already covered. Anyone who's ever seen Tom and Jerry will know that cats love catching mice!

Add Natural Toys

climbing a tree

Most pet owners know what things their cats enjoy playing with, and an outdoor space is sure to bring a ton of new toys into their lives. Luckily, a lot of these toys can be made from the items that are already in your garden. Maybe your cat will fashion a log into a scratching post or find a nice ledge to sunbathe off of. Planting large shrubs, hedges, or grasses in your yard will give your feline friend some cover to stalk behind. If you’re looking to save the bark on your beautiful backyard trees, you can set up a small ladder, ledge, or outdoor pet tree for them to climb instead!

Incorporate Natural Shade and Hiding Spots

Even if they’re only going to be outdoors for a short amount of time, you'll need to provide your cat with some easy access to shade. On particularly warm days, cats that stay out in the sun too long run the risk of overheating. Patio umbrellas and canopies are a couple of quick fixes to this problem, and they may already be a part of your backyard decor. Plus, the large bushes, sunflowers, and ornamental grasses you’ve planted for your cats should provide them with a at least a few more places to cool off under.

When considering shade, you’ll also want to think about keeping your cat hydrated. Take a bowl with you every time you go out into the garden, and refill it often to ensure your kitty has a plentiful supply of fresh water.

Introduce A Designated Litter Zone

outdoor litter box

If there's one thing gardeners don't like about cats, it's the fact that they sometimes leave their unwanted litter box business in the flower beds. Luckily, litter box-trained cats can easily be taught to use an outdoor litter box or pan. Devoting a small part of your yard or garden to your cat's bathroom activities will help establish boundaries and let your cat know that it’s important to follow bathroom rules indoors and out. If you find that your cat is ignoring their outdoor bathroom area, spread some less-desirable planting bed mediums like mulch or pest netting around the garden. Your cats won't like the feel of the terrain and will have no choice but to use the area you set up for them!

Creating a multipurpose garden that every member of your family can enjoy will allow you to tend to your plants with your closest feline friends by your side. Even the shyest of cats enjoys exploring a safe outdoor space. The biggest perk? You'll probably reach for the spray bottle a lot less when it comes time to defend your houseplants.