Pest Guide: Cats and Dogs
When most growers think of pests, they’re thinking of things like insects and rodents, not domesticated pets. Some growers intentionally adopt cats or dogs in an effort to chase away other pests, such as rodents and deer, but poorly trained pets can be just as much of a problem. Read on to find out about some of the common issues caused by grower’s pets and how to address them and protect the crop.
Although fully composted horse, cow, or rabbit manure can be a great addition to just about any outdoor garden, fresh pet droppings can have a detrimental effect on the soil and therefore the plants as well. Unfortunately, both cats and dogs have a propensity for choosing a grower’s otherwise beautiful gardens as a favorite spot to defecate. Some believe the animals are marking their territory, but regardless of why dogs and cats want to defecate in gardens, growers need to take active steps toward preventing them from doing so.
Dog and cat feces harbor parasites and infectious diseases, many of which can be passed on to people. Untreated feces can also contaminate the groundwater and attract flies and other garden pests. Plus, it smells terrible and creates a risk of extremely unpleasant slips and falls for growers walking around in their gardens.
Why Don’t Pet Owners Use Dog and Cat Manure?
Veteran organic growers may be asking themselves what the difference is between applying composted cow, horse, or pig manure to a garden bed and composting pet waste. Technically, pet feces can be composted safely if growers are willing to invest time and energy into learning how to make dog and cat manure. However, improper composting of domestic animal waste causes all kinds of health risks ranging from transmission of parasites like roundworms in dogs and toxoplasmosis in cats to pollution of the surrounding ecosystem.
Growers who have extensive knowledge of safe composting practices for dog and cat feces and plenty of room to experiment safely, far from their gardens and homes, might want to give pet manure a try. Even then, though, it’s important to stop these animals from defecating directly onto the soil in marijuana gardens. It’s not just unpleasant. It’s also unsafe, and it definitely won’t do the plants any good. Don’t let your valuable autoflower or feminized seeds go to waste!
Dog and cat urine isn’t as harmful to human health as feces, but it can definitely damage grower’s plants. Cat urine, in particular, is very high in ammonia, which can cause growth reductions, leaf necrosis, and increased frost sensitivity in plants. The best thing for growers to do if they notice their cats, or their neighbors’ cats, urinating in the garden is to pour water on the spot immediately to dilute it. From black widow seeds to blue dream strain seeds, no Cannabis plant likes an excess of Nitrogen, or any elemental nutrient for that matter.
Both dog and cat urine also contain high levels of nitrogen. At first glance, that might seem like a good thing since marijuana plants need a certain amount of nitrogen to grow and thrive. When applied in excessive quantities, though, nitrogen can cause nutrient burns. Most growers know not to over-apply commercial fertilizers and plant foods if they want to avoid burning their plants, but not everyone realizes that pet urine can cause the same problem.
Regardless of whether cats and dogs are entering the garden with the intent of using it as a litter box, these pets will almost always cause manual damage while they’re in there. There are a few ways that dogs and cats can damage marijuana crops at just about any point in the plants’ life cycles.
Many pets enjoy digging holes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and growers with exceptionally well-trained dogs may even be able to use this natural tendency to their advantage during planting season. However, if the family pet starts digging holes in the soil surrounding growing or mature marijuana plants, it can disrupt the soil microbiome and cause root damage. In extreme cases, it can even kill the plants.
Dogs also seem to love trampling young plants. They don’t mean to do it, but few dogs look where they are walking when they get excited. Whether the damage occurs while the animals are looking for a place to defecate or as they’re running through the garden looking for their owners is irrelevant, because the results will be the same. Young plants will probably be killed, and even fully mature plants can sustain substantial damage, causing decreased yields. If you are germinating your own cannibus seed, be sure to keep them safe and protected during these early phases of growing.
Both cats and dogs have been known to chew through marijuana stems and even eat buds during harvest season. That’s a problem for both growers and their pets. Growers will lose valuable buds, or even entire plants, and their pets could experience marijuana toxicity.
Marijuana toxicity can affect both cats and dogs. In mild cases, it can cause loss of coordination, fatigue, depression, or agitation. In extreme cases, it can induce vomiting, bradycardia, seizures, comas, and, in rare cases, death. Even if the thought of crop loss isn’t enough to motivate growers to keep their pets out of the garden, the potential harm to the animals should.
How to Stop Dog Damage
The easiest and most obvious way to stop dogs from damaging marijuana crops is to put a fence up around them. Adequate fencing also prevents wild animals like deer from ravaging the crop. Growers who don’t have the time and money to invest in fully fencing in their gardens can also keep their dogs on a lead far from their plants when they’re working, or, if the dogs are smart and obedient enough, they can train them to stay away from the garden of their own volition.
It’s easier to convince dogs to leave marijuana plants alone if they have other ways to occupy themselves outside. If the dog loves to dig, give him or her an area where this behavior is acceptable. It is possible to train dogs to dig only on command or only in certain places. It just takes time, effort, and a lot of patience. That’s why most growers choose to put up fences or dog leads instead.
How to Stop Cat Damage
Keeping outdoor cats out of the garden can be a little trickier. Cats are notoriously hard to train, they can jump or climb over even tall fences, and they don’t respond well to being kept on leashes. Even if cat owners manage to train their pets not to enter the garden, chances are, there will be at least one nearby neighbor who hasn’t bothered to do the same. It’s much smarter to protect the garden from all local felines than it is to invest the immense amount of effort required to train a house cat into keeping just one of them away from the plants.
There are two easy ways to keep cats out of marijuana gardens. The first is to place chicken wire on top of the soil, like a horizontal fence. Cats don’t like walking on wire, so they won’t bother trying to get into the garden.
The second way to keep cats out of the garden is to dust the edges with hot chili pepper. Cats aren’t the only animals that naturally avoid the smell of hot peppers, either, which means that this method can also be used to keep other pests away.
To be clear, it is possible to build a cat-proof fence. Growers can box in their entire gardens using chicken wire stretched across a wooden or PVC frame. Most just find that this solution requires a lot more effort and resources than laying chicken wire across the ground and just cutting holes around the plants’ stems as they begin to grow.
Keep Dogs and Cats Away While Curing Marijuana
The battle against otherwise beloved pets or nuisance animals entering the property from neighbors’ yards doesn’t stop when growers harvest their crops. Both dogs and cats also need to be precluded from the drying and curing rooms. These animals may still eat drying marijuana, causing them to get sick and growers to lose part of their crops. Even worse, especially poorly trained dogs or cats may also decide to mark their territory in the drying room. The easiest way to avoid these problems is to make sure they can’t get in to begin with.
The Bottom Line
Growers who are concerned about domestic animals getting into their crops don’t need to take their beloved pets to the pound. They just need to take reasonable precautions to keep them out of outdoor gardens and indoor grow rooms, such as putting up fencing, laying down chicken wire, training dogs to stay away from the plants, or keeping them inside when growers are working in the garden and can’t keep an eye on them.
Fortifying a garden against dogs and cats comes with a second benefit. It also keeps out a wide variety of other pests, such as mice, rats, and other rodents. These wild animals are also known to cause substantial damage to marijuana crops, especially when food is scarce, so excluding them from the garden can go a long way toward ensuring an optimal yield.