It is Earth Day and during this unprecedented time would you like to do something that would be beneficial for Your Pets, the Environment & Nature & You?!
Well if the answer is YES, then why not make a Herbal Sensory Garden?!
Plants and especially Herbs have both Sensory & Food Enrichment Qualities to Enhance and Support your Pet’s Well-Being Physically & Emotionally.
With the Senses there are 5 main senses which are beneficial in enriching our Pets lives as well as our Own.
These 5 are: Sight, Touch, Hearing, Smell & Taste. These are all wonderful together and to actually explore and experience these senses in a slow mindful way is a fantastic way to tune into Nature for yourself. By you tuning into your Pet’s choices will enhance your already tight bond. It is a lovely thing to experience and share with your Pet especially in these ‘out of the ordinary’ times.
Also if your Pet has lost one or two of their senses through age or disability-such as sight or hearing then their 3 other senses will naturally take over-and this enrichment is hugely invaluable to their overall Well-Being.
Food Enrichment Qualities are from the Herbal Plant’s natural culinary medicinal properties.
Animals are known to Self-Select also know as Self-Medicate with the terms Greek name of Zoopharmacognosy. They do this with plants to Heal Themselves Physically and studies have shown that these plants can also help on an Emotional level. This is also true for us to-as we Humans are Animals too!
Thus a lot is know about the Benefits of Herbs for us Humans in Culinary terms on a Physical level and on an Emotional level through Aromatherapy however have you thought about how it could help your Pets?
Well; as Sight is our Primary sense, for Animals- specifically our Mammalian Pets- their Primary sense is Smell then followed by Hearing. So why do we not give our Pets the opportunity to use this amazing sense of smell?
So, this is where you come in! By making a Sensory Garden with Herbal Plants for You & Your Pets. However, one more thing-I want to express how important these Herbal Plants are for the Environment & Nature-Wildlife living within your Local Environment Eco-system.
Herbal Plant are also wonderful for the encouragement and support for pollinating wildlife such as Butterflies & Bees which are needed to support the Earth’s Ecosystem. As pollinators we need them as they are responsible for ~70% of our food pollination of crops and between 78%-94%; depending on what area of the World you are in, responsible for all flowering plants!
WHAT? You may ask What is a Herbal Sensory Garden?
A Herbal Sensory Garden is a collection of Herbal Plants that are Physically & Emotionally beneficial for Pets Well-Being as already discussed.
Use a Variety of Pet-Safe Plants as long as they’re non-toxic. Stay away from Orchids, Sago Palms, Azaleas, and Autumn Crocus, because these are all poisonous to pets.
Thus the use of Medicinal Herbs are the emphasis to this garden because they are both with strong scented and are safe for pets.
Rosemary, Thyme, and Basil all have strong scents that your Pets will love to sniff as I am sure you will enjoy yourself too!
Chamomile and Lavender have calming qualities and are good choices for Pets with nervous personalities.
Choose plants in a variety of heights, shapes, and textures to keep things interesting.
Here is a list of the best Self-Selection/Self-Medication Herbal plants for your Sensory Garden and the medicinal properties they hold for our Pets as well as Ourselves:
- Catnip: not just for cats! Good for its Relaxation properties and stimulates playfulness in dogs
- Cat Grass : helps cats deal with Hairballs.
- Dandelion Root: helps to detox the Stomach and Gall Bladder
- Echinacea : Supports the Immune System and helps fight Infections
- Lavender – known to encourage Scar Tissue Regeneration and a great Relaxant/Calming.
- Lemon Balm : helps with Bowel problems and to help with Stress.
- Marshmallow: known to help animals with delicate Stomachs.
- Marigold/Calendula- often selected by animals experiencing Grief or Emotional Distress also a great all-round body tonic full of Vitamins & Minerals.
- Meadowsweet – often selected by animals with Digestive Problems, Arthritis, and Rheumatic conditions.
- Peppermint – good for its cooling properties and often selected by animals with Skin Irritations. It can also be offered as an aid for Training. And the added bonus of freshening breath!
- Valerian – often selected by Anxious dogs for its calming effect.
- Milk Thistle : used to protect the Liver.
- Vervain: valuable for treating and nourishing Nervous System Disorders such as Depression.
- Wheat Grass – animals who are Nervous, Anxious, and exhibit Hyper Behaviours often select Wheat Grass.
WHERE? Find Your Space
You don’t need a huge space, or even grass, to make your dog a great sensory garden. You can use your entire yard, a portion of your yard, or even a balcony. Base your plans off of what you have to work with. Even a small sensory area will add enrichment to your Pet’s life. Creating a mini sensory garden with a little planning and consideration, it is possible for Pet owners to make your own mini sensory garden. Even if you just have room for one lavender plant that can still help your pet. Its all simple stuff and it’s harmless. And, best of all, you can have fun creating a small area for your Pet.
If you’re utilizing a patio or another type of area that makes planting difficult, put your plants in pots or raised flower beds. As long as they’re not too tall, your Pet will still enjoy them.
One Tip if planting in pots: with the soil/dirt/compost you use make sure there is a little grit so there is room for air and water so the material does not get too compacted/ Also if putting in pots make sure they have a hole in the bottom of the pots for drainage. So to prevent blockage with the soil/dirt/compost/grit put a stone big enough so it doesn’t fall through but small enough to allow water to travel through.
Cost consideration is an important element, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. You will need to anticipate that some plants might need replacing in time if they get bent, but this is all part of a sensory garden – Pets really do enjoy that sensory experience of engaging with the plants!
Marigold/Calendula is really easy to grow and many pets enjoy being around it, but please be mindful to get the Medicinal variety not the ornamental as the latter does not have the scent or medicinal properties. And how do you tell? Well if you look for the Latin names for example Marigold it will state ‘Calendula officinalis’. The ‘officinalis’ is the identification that the plant is Medicinal, another example is Althaea officinalis (marshmallow).
The main instant benefit of a sensory garden is enrichment. Even if you only plant one new plant it’s another smell for Pets to explore. Because the Sensory Garden is designed to use only Herbal Plants your Pet is able to decide whether they might just want to inhale a plant, or they might want to ingest it with no worry of risk to them.
Also for the Sense of Taste a Blueberry or Raspberry Bush could be your dog’s chance to express his instinct to naturally forage for food. Remember, however, only use pet-safe methods of keeping invading bugs away from your plants. You don’t want your Pets consuming Chemical Pesticides and we want to support the Local Ecosystem Wildlife.
Your Herbal Sensory Garden is something that will evolve with time. You’ll learn what your Pet tends to ignore and what they really love. Young Pets such as recently vaccinated puppies all the way up to senior dogs with age-related health issues can find enjoyment in a Herbal Sensory garden; as like any other Pets. So whatever Pet you have whether Dog, Cat, Rabbit, Hamster, Guinea Pig, Bird or Reptile they will all love you for it! Start planning yours today!
DISCLAIMER: SOME PLANTS ARE POISONOUS TO ANIMALS. PLEASE BE AWARE OF WHAT PLANTS ARE TOXIC AND IF YOU ARE NOT SURE PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THE RISK.
TO AVOID THIS ISSUE ALL MY PLANTS LISTED ARE NATURAL CULINARY HERBAL PLANTS WHICH HAVE MEDICINAL PROPERTIES AND ARE SAFE FOR PETS TO INGEST.
This exceptional article was contributed by NWA colleague, Charlotte Walker
Charlotte Erika Walker is Animal Healer & Communicator, practitioner in Natural Food Animal Remedies with Hydrosols & Organic Herbal Infused Culinary Oils.
My teachers and Co-therapists are Skippy the Boxer & Smeg the Cat, both rescues and Smeg from a Fridge going for Recycling (hence his name!)
Animal Health & Healing
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