Attracting wildlife to your garden safely as a pet owner

Explore our top tips on how to attract wildlife to your garden in pet-friendly ways!

19th April 2024

Nature needs you, just as much as you need nature. Though, for those of us who are pet parents, attracting wildlife to our gardens safely can be a tricky task!

Explore our top tips on how to attract wildlife to your garden in a pet-friendly way, since even the smallest action can have a big impact… 

1 – Offer only pet-safe food for wildlife

It’s important that any food you offer to wildlife is pet-safe, in case your dog and/or cat manage to sneak a snack or two for themselves! 

Examples of wildlife-friendly food that’s safe for your pets:

  • Sunflower seeds.
  • Plain, boiled potatoes.
  • Carrots.
  • Dog or cat biscuits.
  • Tinned pet food, e.g. dog meat or cat meat.

Wildlife-friendly food that’s toxic for your pets and must be avoided:

  • Grapes.
  • Raisins, sultanas, currants, etc.
  • Scraps or leftovers.
  • Raw meat (that’s not pet-safe).

It’s essential to keep wildlife feeders out of reach, too – so your dog doesn’t disturb wildlife and your cat can’t catch birds, squirrels, or other small animals. If you feeder includes nuts, it’s also important to keep these out of reach for your pets. While some nuts are ok for cats and dogs to eat in moderation, it’s best to avoid the risk. 

2 – Create some shelter

Creating some shelter in your garden benefits wildlife and your pets, by offering shade from the sun during summer months and protection from rainy weather throughout the year.

You can provide a wildlife friendly shelter safely in your garden by planting trees and shrubs, including:

  • Maple (acer) trees.
  • Mulberry trees.
  • Birch trees.
  • Willow trees.
  • Olive trees.
  • Magnolia.
  • Dogwood.
  • Ferns.
  • Buddleia.
  • Shrub roses.

3 – Plant pet-safe, pollinator-friendly flowers

Flowers can brighten any space, though choosing pollinator-friendly flowers has a positive impact on wildlife, too!

Pollinators you may find visiting your garden include bumblebees and butterflies, who play a vital role in our local ecosystems, while also being important to biodiversity

However, having flowers within reach of our curious cats and dogs can cause a serious problem if those plants aren’t safe for pets

Here are some pollinator-friendly flowers that are safe to plant if you have pets:

  • Sunflower.
  • Lavender.
  • Michaelmas daisy.
  • Dandelion. 
  • Rose.
  • Honeysuckle.
  • Fuchsia.
  • Snapdragon.
  • Pansy.
  • Zinnia.

In case flowers aren’t your thing, planting pollinator-friendly herbs is an effective way to support nature, as well! Herbs that are pet-safe include:

  • Basil.
  • Sage.
  • Catmint.
  • Thyme.
  • Rosemary.

A dog and a cat looking at each other while laying upside down on grass

4 – Build a safe space for wildlife

Providing a special space specifically for wildlife that’s protected from the prying paws of your pets is an amazing way to nurture nature in your garden!

Hedgehog house

Creating a hedgehog house offers a safe habitat for one of the UK’s most beloved mammals, where they can enjoy food without the worry of predators. Making your own hedgehog house could become a fun family activity, by getting everyone involved with painting it and checking that food is available for hedgehog visitors.

Top tip: Locate your hedgehog house somewhere sheltered and quiet, near a hedge or fence, and preferably in a corner.

Butterfly house

Through building a butterfly house, you’re offering local butterflies safety from predators (e.g. birds and pets) and shelter from terrible weather. Ideally, you should place your butterfly house somewhere the sunshine can reach, near their favourite flowers (like lavender or buddleia), where butterflies are protected from wind and rain. 

Top tip: To attract butterflies, putting a little mashed banana near the butterfly house might help!

Bug hotel

A bug hotel is one of the easiest to create, yet also possibly the most versatile wildlife habitat that’s suitable to put anywhere – from a garden hedge to a windowsill!

Additionally, a bug hotel allows you to recycle old objects that may have otherwise been binned, including unused flowerpots, unwanted mugs, or the lower half of a plastic bottle.

Remember: Don’t be disheartened if your offer of a shelter goes unused for months or even years, it can take time for it to be found and trusted. 

5 – Avoid artificial fertilisers and chemical pesticides

Artificial fertilisers and chemical pesticides can be extremely harmful to both wildlife and pets, as can weed killer (herbicides).

You can protect your pet by selecting pet-safe, natural fertilisers for your garden. Here are a few examples:

  • Organic compost.
  • Grass clippings.
  • Horse manure (that’s been composted for around four months before use!).

Instead of using toxic chemicals to keep pests away, you could:

  • Crush eggshells and scatter them around the base of plants to deter slugs and snails.
  • Attract hedgehogs and birds to your garden, as they’ll eat plenty of insects you’re likely to consider as pests.
  • Use humane traps for mice and rats, that enable you to release rodents somewhere safe (and far away from your garden!). 

The safest way to control weeds in your garden is to weed by hand, as that’ll eliminate the risks to pets associated with chemical weed killers.  

If you’d like additional advice about keeping your garden, or other outdoor space, pet-safe as well as wildlife-friendly, have a chat with the vet experts over at Joii Pet Care!

Animal welfare blog

If you found this blog useful, why not visit our animal welfare blog to find more articles about animal at risk around the world?

From news and facts, to charities helping protect animals and the great work they do - find out more about animal welfare and those making a difference.


Charities we support

Every year we donate hundreds of thousands of pounds to charities - find out more about the charities we support.


We know pets

Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
Our policyholders have helped donate over £8.5 million to more than 800 animal charities worldwide and by educating and inspiring others to act on current events and responsible pet ownership, Animal Friends is driving positive change for animal welfare and conservation.