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    • 08 Mar, 2017

    Nature’s Playground

    Cats and dogs arrive at The Mayhew for a variety of reasons, in desperate need of our help. Here are some of the ideas we use to help reduce stress and anxiety in those animals, which you could easily recreate in your own home and garden this spring.

    Kitten Garden

    Our kitten garden was designed to provide lots of sensory enrichment for our kittens to ensure they grow into confident and happy adult cats.


    We plant bamboo, sunflowers, wheat grass, cat mint and cat nip around the kitten garden which they love to smell, nibble on and play with. They also attract butterflies which keep the kittens entertained for hours!

    You can plant your own pet-friendly herbs and plants


    We make our own puzzle feeders using cardboard boxes, egg boxes and cardboard toilet roll tubes. Simply place dry food in them and the cat can bat the food out as a game!

    We also hang wind catchers and sun catchers (you can also use old CDs) that the kittens like to chase. Dangly toys are an absolute must for exercise (especially for the indoor cat), as it helps release endorphins too!

    Every cat home should have a scratch posts or mat. Scratching isn’t just about conditioning the claws, it’s about scent marking. Cats love to use them to have a good old stretch after waking up from a nap, so best to place it near its favourite sleeping spot! Spraying some catnip onto a post provides great stimulation as they’ll rub all over and scratch the post.

    Cats can have hours of fun with dangly toys!


    We have a mini solar-powered drinking fountain (great to keep your cat hydrated!) and wind chimes to provide soothing and relaxing sounds. Natural noises such as these have a real calming effect. You can also play classical music at a low volume to help reduce anxiety (this is great for indoor cats too).


    Tinkling bells, crinkly sounds and squeaks are all loved and catnip-scented toys appeal to most cats. Textures can include plastic, rubber, cardboard, feathers and different fabrics for cats to dig their claws into.  You can also give your cat a sensory experience with foliage, artificial grass, soft mats, soil, fabrics and wooden areas.

    For the indoor cat

    An indoor cat will not get to experience everything that an outdoor cat enjoys such as climbing trees and eating foliage, but you can still make sure their senses are enriched by adapting the above tips and including some of the following ideas given by our Cattery team!

    Greenery like grass can be beneficial for cats because it helps with digestion. We grow catnip, cat mint, and wheat grass indoors on the cattery for the cats to nibble on and play with during spring and summer, and throughout the year.

    Give your cat different heights indoors, like in our Kitten Garden

    Indoor window boxes are a great idea, but make sure any foliage is safe before introducing it to the home.  Check our here to see what plants are safe for cats as many are toxic.

    Let your indoor kitty enjoy watching nature’s playground by hanging bird feeders near windows for them to sit and watch from indoors. Keep an eye on your cat’s behaviour though, as some can become frustrated that they can’t catch the bird, so move the feeders out of kitty’s sight if this happens.

    Multi-level resting areas are particularly important for indoor cats. Shelves can easily be mounted on walls and perches can be set up at windowsills and bookcases. This can also be applied to gardens to make it more exciting for outdoor cats to explore. Offer your cat a shaded area to retreat to and play in when temperatures get too hot.

    Dog Sensory Garden

    The sensory garden in our kennels can help dogs become more secure in their surroundings and provide additional stimulation on a daily basis during their time with us.

    Long-stayer Prince enjoyed lots of playtime in our sensory garden.


    Dogs love nothing more than having a sniff about. There is a variety of scented plants which have a beneficial effect that you’ll see in our Sensory Garden this summer. Numerous plants have a calming effect on anxious dogs including Catnip, Hops, Lavender, Mimulus, Valerian and Violets are particularly effective.

    Chamomile is great for dogs suffering from anxiety or skin/stomach upsets and Marshmallow is known to help animals with delicate stomachs.

    Why not try growing some of these in your own garden for your dog to enjoy this spring? For a whole list of suitable plants and their benefits visit here.

    Dogs love having a good old sniff around!


    Toys, activity tables and games such as a log with treats hidden in it provide mental stimulation and enjoyment and are things you can easily make at home for your pooch to spend hours playing with.

    Interactive toys (also called enrichment dog toys) such as a Kong or Buster Cube are available to buy in most pet shops and online. You can fill these toys with treats for your pooch for them to work to get them out, providing mental stimulation and a fun way to get food.   It’s easy to make a DIY alternative by popping your dog’s favourite treat into a clear plastic water bottle with some holes cut in the sides for the treats to fall out of. Keep the cap off this homemade toy to make sure your dog is safe from choking.

    Often dogs like digging, so if you don’t have a lawn (or do and want to keep it hole free!) then why not build a sand pit for your dog to play and bury his toys in?

    Hiding treats in logs provides fun stimulation


    A solar-powered fountain for your doggy to drink from and wooden wind chimes provide soothing and relaxing sounds for the dogs to listen to. Non-invasive sounds like these have a calming effect, making the dog feel at ease and reducing stress levels.


    An area of astro-turf and a wooden bark trough of water provide different and interesting things for the dogs to sniff, feel and touch and a paddling pool is a great way for your dog to play and cool off in the summer time!

    Don’t forget to provide a shaded spot for your dog to cool down in and escape from the sun  and offer your pet a good supply of drinking water in a weighted bowl that can’t be knocked over.

    We hope you enjoy making your own sensory delight for your dog in your garden this summer!

    Why not share a photo with us of your pet enjoying the above tips this spring time on Facebook, Twitter (@themayhew) or Instagram.

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