6 Dog-and-Cat-Friendly Plants That Also Repel Pests

Sharon Greenthal
Written by Sharon Greenthal
Updated June 27, 2022
Dog with plants
Photo: Natalia Duryagina / iStock / Getty Images

Keep your yard pest-free—and your pets safe!

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It’s not exactly easy to enjoy your garden when pesky fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks are constantly buzzing around. But you don’t have to load up on DIY citronella candles or cover yourself in bug spray—with some strategic planting, you can keep these itchy pests away (and keep your four-legged family members safe, too). Plus, most of them smell great!

Disclaimer: While these plants are considered non-toxic for dogs and cats, eating too much of any of them may not be good for your pets. Check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants before adding anything to your garden.

1. Basil

Unlike many houseplants, basil is safe for dogs and cats, and it’s one of the best mosquito-repellent plants you can plant. Basil is toxic to mosquito larvae, so it will help to keep the population down in your yard or garden. According to a Purdue University study, basil is an antioxidant, so if your dog chews on a leaf or two, it won’t hurt him. And here’s a hack: plant basil around tomatoes to enhance flavor, then use the basil and tomatoes to make a delicious marinara sauce.

2. Rosemary

Rosemary keeps mosquitoes away from your plants, your pets, and your family—and it adds a pleasant aroma to your garden, too. It is very safe for dogs and other pets, and while it won’t totally get rid of fleas, it will help prevent them from bothering your animals.

3. Lemon Balm

Humans enjoy citrus in many forms—juice, marinade, or as a fruit, peeled and eaten. Fortunately for us, bugs hate citrus, and because the lemon balm herb is safe for dogs and cats, it’s worth planting in your garden to keep pests away. But take note: because it tends to spread like a weed, it’s a good idea to grow lemon balm in a planter to keep it from overrunning your yard.

4. Sage

The perennial plant sage is non-toxic to furry friends and has pest-repelling properties for not only you, but for your other plants, too. Sage grows well in cooler climates with less sun, and it can also grow to be very tall—up to 4 feet. It’s a good option for a natural insecticide that won’t hurt your dog or cat.

5. Marigold

Marigold’s bright, friendly colors are a pretty accent to any yard, and they can keep plant-harming bugs away, too. This plant isn’t considered toxic for dogs or cats, but if ingested, marigolds may cause minor irritation to the digestive and intestinal tract of your pet, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. To be extra cautious, plant them where your pets can’t reach them, such as in window boxes and flower pots placed on tables. You can plant marigolds indoors to add color to your decor—as long as they get direct sunlight for at least six hours a day.

6. Catnip

Cats love catnip, but mosquitos do not. According to studies reported in Science Daily, the natural oil nepetalactone found in catnip is 10 times more effective at keeping mosquitos away than DEET. Catnip is also safe for dogs and, based on the research, is the best way to keep mosquitoes from biting you and your family.


How to get rid of bugs without harming pets?

To get rid of bugs without harming pets, you can try food-grade diatomaceous earth, which is considered safe enough to eat (but is deadly to pests like roaches, beetles, ants, flies, and more). Avoid industrial-grade since that’s not safe for use around pets.

Wear a mask and gloves before applying and follow directions to ensure a proper and safe application. Avoid inhaling the dust and wash your hands after use. Talk to your vet before applying diatomaceous earth to ensure this is a good solution for your home and pet. 

You can also work with a local pest extermination pro to come up with a game plan for treating your home’s interior and exterior for bugs while keeping your pets safe. 

Are citronella plants safe for animals?

According to the Animal Humane Society, citronella plants are toxic to pets. If you have them in your yard or planted in pots around your home’s interior or exterior, ensure they’re out of your pet’s reach. 

What plant keeps bugs and rodents away?

Get strategic with your gardening by planting flowers and plants that bugs and rodents dislike. The following plants will help keep bugs and rodents away, but check the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals database of toxic and non-toxic plants to ensure they’re pet-friendly as well. 

  • Lavender 

  • Lemongrass

  • Daffodil 

  • Amaryllis

  • Chives

  • Mint

  • Petunias

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