These are areas that are designed to have a variety of elements that usually stimulate a range of senses, but could be designed to target just one or two, such as smell and taste. This could be provided for animals by planting a variety of herbs and plants they could interact with. For more information on suitable plants see below, or why not arrange a Herbal Choices session to identify which plants are of particular interest. If using containers, care should be taken in choosing those that do not leach chemicals; this also includes the use of worn tyres which also have the potential to do this.
To stimulate other senses, such as touch, other elements could be added including a variety of materials to walk on such as pebbles, mulch, twigs, sand, wooded and gravelled areas. A water feature such as a pond or stream could also be beneficial, and sound could be introducted by adding fountains or waterfalls, or grasses that would create sound when they move in the wind; however adding objects that create loud or unpredictable noises are best avoided. Some animals may also enjoy things such as wind chimes, but you will be best gauged if this is suitable for their character. Lawned areas, or chamomile lawn, that are maintained pesticide-free, however small, are encouraged rather than "plastic" or artificial grass which can heat up quite dramatically on sunny days and is not biodegradable. Emission of toxins is also widely discussed on social media, however significant changes have been made since the first artificial turf was introduced in the 1960s, with lead and crumb rubber free options now available. However cheap imports would appear to be best avoided. Moss lawns are also growing in popularity as an option, as are clover lawns which are more resistant to urine stains.
The purpose of this type of garden is to not only provide sensory interest, but also a place that is relaxing for your animal; and whatever space is available, sensory enrichment elements can be scaled up or down to fit within this area.
Enrichment can be made accessible within the confines of a garden or yard and can take many forms. Knowing your animal is the key to providing this for them; basically what makes them happy. For your dog this could be as simple as placing their favourite toy in a pile of autumn leaves and giving them guidance to seek it out - seeking games, along with a variety of problem solving games, supports mental development and boosts confidence. As dogs see the colours yellow and blue predominantly, these could also be incorporated.
Dogs and cats would benefit from the introduction of structures at varying heights, creating an observational point for them, as well as working different muscle groups getting up on them. Cats could make use of a log as a scratching post, or a bigger wood structure to allow them to climb naturally. In addition a "den" area could provide a "chill out zone" or area of shade in hotter weather, or just somewhere to play hide and seek.
Companion animals can also benefit from having access to plants for their health and well-being, as well as for enrichment. These may be eaten, rolled in/rubbed against or just inhaled. In fact a study analysing wolf (the closest relative of the dog) scat during the summer months revealed their diet contained 8% grasses and berries, with other studies showing around 20% plant matter. It is sometimes thought grasses are consumed to prevent parasites, but David Mech (an American wolf expert) feels it may be consumed for the vitamin content. A short study by Dogs First seems to support this, with only 1 in 10 of the dogs that regularly selected grass being diagnosed with worms.
Some beneficial plants for dogs:
Diet composition of wolves (Canis lupus) on the Scandinavian peninsula determined by scat analysis , S Muller
Cats may too eat plant matter, but as this is indigestible for them it is unlikely to be for nutritional benefit. In a study of wild cat scat they found 25% contained plant matter, consisting mainly of grasses and twigs (Ref: Feeding Ecology of a Feral Cat Population on a Small Mediterranean Island).
Some beneficial plants for cats:
Herbal supplements are sometimes added to an animal's feed however given the choice they may not choose all the constituents of these, but they could be broken down at a Herbal Choices session and offered individually; allowing your animal to choose. However, supplements prescribed by your vet should be continued and reviewed by them.
For suitable seeds and organically grown plants have a look in our Shop on Etsy.
This plant has stomach calming properties when ingested. It also has calming properties that are supportive for stress and nervousness. The plant can also induce a euphoric state in your cat (around 70% of cat are affected this way) thought to be due to the phytochemical nepetalacatone in the plant. Anecdotally the plant has mild pain relief properties which suggests chewing the leaves may be beneficial for ailments such as toothache.