As an animal communicator, I can tell your dog why it’s in his best interest not to nibble in your garden. I can advise your cat that eating the fresh-cut tulips you just brought in would result in illness, at least one upset human, and a trip to the vet. Or worse. Pets and plants can be a deadly combination.
Clear communication about expectations and consequences is important with any species. But for everyone’s safety and peace of mind, we often have to go further and block the path to temptation or remove it altogether. You can tell your teenagers that the liquor cabinet is off limits, but it might be best to keep it locked.
An animal-specific example: those Easter lilies are beautiful, and who doesn’t want a bit of life and symbolism after a long winter? But they are so toxic, especially to our feline friends, that I advise people with cats not even bring them home. It’s just not worth the risk. I don’t think Jesus will mind.
For harmony of animal and plant life, and to avert a horrible outcome, I recommend these steps. All of them.
- Know what’s toxic before planting it in your garden, adding it to the pasture, or bringing it into your home. The ASPCA maintains a list of plants known to be toxic and non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, but advises that ingesting any plant material can cause vomiting and gastrointestinal problems for cats and dogs.
- Know your animal companion, his curiosity level and interest in plants or other unauthorized objects. For example, if your dog is a shoe guy and has never looked twice at your flowers, you may have less worry than if his tastes are more universal (i.e., gets into everything).
- Be clear with your animal about what will happen if they chew on or eat plants. “If you eat this, you’re going to feel very dizzy, your tummy will hurt really bad, and I’ll have to rush you to the vet. I’d be so upset and frightened if that happened.” Picture all of this as you speak. “So find something better to do.” Then picture him calmly walking away from the plant and picking up a favorite toy, going to look out the window, or coming to you to be petted.
- Consider using a taste deterrent on your plants; I’ve had pretty good luck with Bitter Yuck, which I get through our veterinarian’s pharmacy.
Bottom line: If you know or suspect your animal may have ingested something poisonous, contact your veterinarian, emergency vet clinic, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, (888) 426-4435.