If your cat is always go outside in a bad weather, you should follow cat-loving garden expert Graham Strong’s advice on maintaining the perfect cat-friendly garden all year round.
1. Get decked out
At first, decking it is often a cost effective way to create level areas, but as with paving slabs, a large area of just one material can look bare and unyielding. However, when used with imagination, timber has some really appealing virtues. It is easy to lay, warm to the touch, pleasing on the eye and the most cat-friendly material you could wish for.
2. Make a big cat lair
There are plenty of gardens out there in need of thinning out after the summer growth surge. If yours is one, think twice before burning or taking the prunings to the tip, and instead make a rustic hideaway. My cat lair didn’t cost a bean because I had all the materials to hand. However, if your garden is a little under planted, keep your eyes open for neighbours who are having a thin out. Tree surgeons too, will be glad to get rid of prunings. These are the steps:
1. Use a combination of long, straight poles for the frame and twiggy evergreen prunings to cover it.
2. If you’ve got a ‘V’ shaped branch to form the entrance, it will make a real feature. If not, lash two strong poles together to form the apex at each end.
3. Nail on more cross pieces leaving the ends sticking out (pictured below). A few rough edges add to the jungle flavour. Add some deck tiles or a few rows of bricks to form a dry base.
4. Push the stems of the largest evergreen prunings into the soil to anchor them, then weave them in amongst the cross pieces.
5. Avoid poisonous evergreens like yew or holly that have berries attached.
6. Add or replace trimmings that have gone brown. Most will keep their colour in the cool, moist air of autumn and winter.
3. Plant a prairie
The trend for North American-style prairie planting is still going strong and my guess is that cats are very much in favour of this. Herbaceous perennials (that come up each year) are now used in great sweeps of naturalistic planting and mixed in with ornamental grasses. Quite a contrast to the more rigid displays in long, straight borders you see in National Trust gardens. Trentham Gardens in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, contains fine examples of this more relaxed style. The essence is to plant a framework of grasses like Pony tails (Stipa tenuissima) and Pheasant’s tail grass (Anemanthele lessoniana) and stud them with daisies like Echinacea and the flat heads of Achillea. It looks great, lures in bees and butterflies, and offers an open invitation for your cat to brush up on his stalking skills.
4. Sow some leafy treats
With the supply of tender grass shoots beginning to wane in the garden as plants enter their winding down phase, now is the time to supplement your cat’s diet with seed raised tasty cat grass. For indoor cats, it may be the only chance they have to get a non-stop supply of shoots to nibble on as an aid to their digestion. It can be grown easily in containers in the garden up to September and after then on the window sill indoors.
5. Encourage the birds
All gardeners and cat owners I know will recognise the pleasure that comes from sharing, and it is particularly flattering when birds take a liking to our own piece of Eden. By setting up a wild bird takeaway close to the house windows, we will all be constantly entertained by the comings and goings, and enjoy a spectacle as alluring as the most ornament. Our cats will sit for hours watching through the window, when it’s too wet to go out. And with the colder weather it is vital to put out regular supplies of food and water. Site feeders in the open garden, but with some evergreens where the birds can retreat to if alarmed. A range of feeders and foods suspended on a shepherds’ hook type support will attract many types of birds that can perch and hover. Choosing feeders that have dishes below the tube will ensure spilt seed is caught.
6. Plant more evergreens
I’ve always believed that the most cat-friendly gardens are ones well populated with evergreens, and it is now as we see the first tints of autumn develop that we begin to appreciate plants that retain their foliage. Choice evergreens will lend shelter, security, a sense of mystery so we don’t see the whole garden at a glance, and a wrap-around comfort blanket that disguises the boundaries of our plots.