How to Make the Best Backyard for Your Dog or Cat
As cozy as your home may be, your fur baby longs to be in the great outdoors. These ideas will transform your backyard into a pet paradise.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Why your outdoor space needs a pet-friendly makeover
Our pets are our babies, and just like with human children, we want them to be stimulated, active, and happy. The backyard is the perfect place to make that happen. “By making a safe, fun environment, we can help to add mental and physical stimulation to our pets’ lives,” says professional dog trainer Nicole Ellis, an expert at the Dog People on Rover.com and author of Working Like a Dog. Whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, there are several easy ways to transform your backyard space into a fun, welcoming haven for your pet.
Install a cat fence
Dogs aren’t the only pets who should get to play outside. One great way to make the backyard welcoming and fun for your favorite feline is to secure it with a fencing system made especially for cats, such as the Kitty Corral Cat Fence Conversion System. “This keeps other animals out and keeps your cat in—giving you the freedom to set up the yard for fun,” says Mikel Delgado, a certified applied animal behaviorist and a cat expert on Rover.com. “It also gives your cat the security that no strange cats will be coming into their turf.” If you already have your backyard fenced in, this cat-proof fence topper will keep your cat contained and content. How safe is your kitty? Here are 12 dangerous mistakes cat owners should never make.
Add an invisible fence
If the idea of an actual fence makes you cringe, you can set up an invisible fence for your cat or dog. It gives them the outdoor freedom they desire and the safety they need—without compromising your backyard aesthetic. The PetSafe Wireless Dog and Cat Containment System is made by the same company as the Invisible Fence, but it’s a fraction of the price and you can set it up yourself. It covers an adjustable circular area of up to half an acre and is completely portable, meaning that there are no wires to bury.
Construct a “catio”
If you live in an apartment or a condo with a small patio, you can still give your cat some territory to reign over. “A catio, or outdoor enclosure, is another way to give your cat safe outdoor time,” suggests Delgado. For the truly devoted cat aficionado, check out the Purrfect Playhouse Outdoor Catio. If you’ve got a curious cat (and you’re feeling ambitious), you don’t have to stay on the patio. Believe it or not, you can train your feline to walk on a leash—or even use a toilet.
Shield your pet with shade
Cats and dogs love lounging in the sun, but like humans, too much sun can take a toll on them. Delgado urges you to make sure the backyard has shaded and protected areas for them as well. This will ensure that they don’t overheat and that they have somewhere to go if it rains. You can either hang a big tarp or sunblock shade in your yard or purchase your little pal a cot with removable canopy, like this one from Floppy Dawg. This indoor/outdoor pet bed is lightweight, portable, and comes in a variety of colors, sizes, and patterns.
Plant some cat-friendly herbs
Make sure to avoid using toxic plants and products that could be harmful to your furry family members. And if you have a green thumb, think about planting some pet-friendly plants. Delgado suggests cat grasses (like these from Perfect Plants), catnip, and cat mint. “Some cats really enjoy rolling in warm dirt, so think about giving them a little bed of dirt they can roll in,” she adds. Ever wonder what it is about catnip that makes your kitty go crazy? This is exactly what catnip does to cats.
Get an outdoor fountain for your cat
Cats might not like to swim, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love playing around in water. A fountain, like this Bamboo Accents Zen Garden Water Fountain, can provide hours of entertainment for your cat, as well as dress up your outdoor space. “Try putting some ping-pong balls in a fountain,” suggests Delgado. “Many cats can’t resist the bobbing toy in the moving water!” And in case you were wondering, this is why so many cats seem to hate water.
Give your dog a place to do the doggy paddle
If your dog likes to swim—or just chill out in shallow water—Ellis suggests getting him a shallow pool of his own. This Jasonwell Foldable Pool is sturdy enough for dogs (and even kids) and easily collapses down for your convenience. It is also available in a variety of sizes, ranging from 32 inches up to 63 inches. If you feel like leaving the comfort of your backyard, here are 12 dog-friendly beaches across the country to visit.
Encourage your pup to mark his territory
Instead of letting your dog pee all over your plants and even your house, Ellis suggests providing him with some “fun and easy” items to mark in your backyard. Since dogs love to pee on vertical structures, large stones can do the trick. Or you can buy this awesome Mayrich Dog Fire Hydrant, which isn’t actually a fire hydrant but a resin statue made to look like one.
Give your cat a place to scratch
Delgado says that anything cats enjoy inside, they will likely enjoy outside, too. Since scratching is one of their favorite pastimes, simply bring their scratching post outdoors—or invest in one that’s a little more outdoor-friendly. The Ultimate Scratching Post from Pioneer Pet SmartCat has amassed a near-perfect score on Amazon, with more than 8,500 glowing reviews. If scratching is an issue in your house, don’t miss these tips on how to keep your cat from clawing up your furniture.