If you’re a pet owner that also lives in a home which has a substantial lawn and/or garden that’s cared for regularly, then the growing season can present some unique challenges that many other homeowners don’t have deal with.
Seeding or over-seeding a lawn with pets is simply hard. Both dogs and cats can easily make any simple seeding job a difficult chore and choosing the right seed becomes even more important.
There are better grass seed varieties that owners of pets should choose. Pet-friendly grass seeds are always non-coated, organically sourced, and non-GMO. These seeds can take longer to germinate but they will be a safer option for animals that may willingly ingest them.
The best seeds for pet-owners to sow are also those varieties of grass that are able to withstand the heavy traffic of animals. Fine fescues for instance do well in low traffic environments, usually the opposite situation pet owners face.
Grass types that can spread horizontally into bare spots through rhizomes and stolons are good options for homeowners because they make spot repair in lawns easier, sometimes possible without even seeding the area. Kentucky Blue Grass & Brmudagrass come to mind immediately however KBG can take a long time to establish itself in a lawn setting.
See this post for more info on how long different grass varieties take to grow from seed.
So, how do you know that the things you’re putting into your yard and garden, like grass seed, fertilizers, and new plants, won’t harm the smallest, furriest member of your family?
If you have the kind of dog or other pet who doubles as a living vacuum cleaner and eats everything in sight you obviously may wonder whether or not ingesting grass seeds will do anything harmful to them. If you opt for the pet-friendly as described below you shouldn’t have any concerns other than the extra work it will take to get the seed to grow in your lawn.
Furthermore, it shouldn’t take too much effort or money to find good seed to use in your lawn. Safe seed is pretty widely available and there are a lot of good options to choose from. I’ve used uncoated seed from Outside Pride a few times before. Here’s a good KBG, a cool season grass type from them that will fill in bare spots naturally and a Bermuda variety, a warm season grass type that does the same – both are available on Amazon.
GCI Turf however has some of the best seed available though. It’s not available on Amazon though and can only be purchased from a few high end retailers. Here’s a link to where it can be purchased from a respected in the industry.
So anyway, with all of that said, let’s jump into this in greater depth. Let’s discuss different pet friendly grass seed options, why they are safe, and then touch on the subject of how necessary they actually are. We’ll also cover some growing tips including thoughts on pet-friendly lawn fertilizers for both new and existing.
■ Quick Tip ■
Make sure to see this post for a chart of how much seed to buy per square foot based on grass variety.
How To Identify Pet Friendly Grass Seeds?
So of course there there are grass seeds that are pet-safe but how do we identify them?
Even though many pet owners worry about the effects of their pets ingesting grass seed there aren’t exactly pet-friendly grass seeds that are labeled as such, since normal seed won’t harm your pet.
What you want to look for are organic, natural variants of grass seed, that aren’t coated in chemicals, growth formulation, or any other artificial fertilizers. Any uncoated seed will be safer for your pets than the coated varieties.
The types of grass seed that are coated in fertilizers, wetting agents, or other any chemicals could potentially harm your pet if ingested, due not to the seed itself but due to the chemicals.
What About Pets Inhaling Seed?
Likewise some other pet owners worry about the effect of grass seed on a dog or cat’s respiratory system, as breathing in the seeds could be harmful if they get lodged in a pet’s lungs.
For these concerns you should look to grass seed varieties where the seed itself is larger and less likely to go airborne.
Fescue and Rye seed for instance are much larger in size than Kentucky Blue Grass.
Does Your Pet Have Skin Sensitivities?
If you pet has sensitive skin then keeping them away from the seed is probably best. Many grass seeds can germinate in less than 10 days if applied correctly. There’s not much that can be done about grass seed irritating your pet’s skin.
In a new lawn or bare spot seeding you wouldn’t want the animals on the seeded area anyway and if you overseed the seed will fall below the leaf canopy of your existing grass. This situation your animals may spend time playing around in the grass while you wait for the new seed to establish. If you are concerned about the seed causing some minor skin irritation then just keep them off the area for as long as possible. A seed is a seed after all.
Fact of the matter is that almost all grass seed will not have any substantial effect on your pets stomach, lungs, or skin.
Despite all these worries, most normal uncoated grass seeds will not harm your pet, as long as you’re sensible about laying it down and keeping an eye on your pet when you let them outside. What you really need to look out for as a pet owner are grass seeds that come pre-loaded with fertilizers or other growth chemicals when you buy them. While ingesting a normal grass seed won’t harm your pet, ingesting one that’s slathered in chemicals very well might.
As a side note, the opposite can actually happen, and pets have the potential to damage new, still-growing grass. Paw marks and wear on the grass shoots are one potential thing to look out for. And dog urine, for example, is very high in nitrogen, which could cause “burns,” or patches of dead/dying grass. That’s especially true if you’re already using a fertilizer that’s fairly high in nitrogen.
Given these factors, it may be worth it to invest in a grass seed that is “pet-friendly” in another sense — one that will resist your pet’s normal wear and tear upon your lawn.
Apply Grass Types That Can Resist A Dog Damaging The Yard
As you might have guessed, there are quite a few additional problems between your pets and your lawn. We discussed these a little on our article entitled dog resistant grass seed, but we’re going to be a little more detailed down in this section. We’re also going to take a look at all kinds of pets in general, instead of only dogs.
So, here are the main problems that are associated with having a lawn and a pet (or dog specifically) at the same time and we’re going to take a look at the probable solutions.
- Digging: Pets love to dig. Be it a dog or a cat or even another animal, digging is something most animals do. This can be a bad thing for your lawn. It can damage specific spots of your lawn, and it can kill the grass. Naturally, the lawn might take quite a long time to heal- and might not heal at all properly if this keeps happening and the grass grows very slowly. This is one of the biggest problems that lawn/pet owners face.
- Urine: Urine from pets, especially from dogs, can be another major problem to deal with. Now, this might actually be solved by letting it do what it must somewhere else. But, if lawn is the best choice according to you, then you might want to choose grass that is a little more resistant to it. Some people also recommend adjusting your dog’s diet, but we really don’t recommend changing your dog’s food for your lawn without serious consideration.
Look for grass strains that are specifically developed to be durable. Grass types that are better able to resist heavy traffic and nitrogen burns are good options. Other grass types that can repair themselves are also excellent options.
This Jonathan Green tall fescue seed for instance can hold up to high traffic. If you live further south then this Bermudagrass variety from Outside Pride can withstand heavier nitrogen applications (dog pee) and can repair itself by spreading horizontally into bare spots.
The bag or label will usually say if a seed is designed that way or not but I think I can help guide you to be best varieties before you get to the store.
What Grass Types Are Best For Pet Owners
Now, for the more advanced lawn owners out there, here are some actual names of seeds many pet owners have success with. Naturally, you will also have to choose your variety based on your geographic location and local weather conditions. You couldn’t vary well grow a healthy fescue lawn in Phoenix, AZ after all.
Here are a few recommendations I can give. These are the seeds you might actually go for if you plan on having lots of animal traffic on the lawn:
- Perennial Ryegrass: Rye is one of the ideal choices if you want to be able to repair bare spots quickly from seed. Very few grasses can actually recover from damage as fast as ryegrass when it is reseeded, making it a great choice for this purpose. Naturally, you might actually be one of those people who does not like ryegrass, and so you might be looking for another option, so here’s the next recommendation!
- Kentucky Bluegrass: The second best choice out there for cool season grass types is Kentucky Bluegrass, assuming your geographical location gives you ample precipitation in the summer or if your irrigation game is strong. KBG is a great option because it’s the main cool season grass type that can and will spread horizontally across the ground so if a are of the lawn is damaged by pets it will eventually repair itself if fertilized enough and given enough time.
- Bermudagrass: This is my go to favorite for warm season grass types because it not only spreads horizontally and repairs itself quickly but it can take high levels of nitrogen which is what it can get frequently with dog urine.
- Centipede Grass: This is a dark horse alternative to Bermudagrass for warmer locations and even places in the Transition Zone where winter conditions are fairly mild. The reason for this is because the grass will repair itself and stay green and growing all year around so long as it doesn’t experience to many freezing temperature nights. People with pets have them in the winter too so grass types that can hold up to colder winter weather can be good options for pet owners.
All these considerations bring us to our next point. Even though choosing a pet-friendly grass seed matters, choosing a pet-friendly fertilizer may in fact be an even bigger issue. Really, it’s the chemicals in synthetic fertilizers that have a chance of harming your pet when ingested, not the grass seed itself.
Are There Pet-Friendly Fertilizers?
The answer is yes. Just like grass seed, there are pet-friendly fertilizers that you can buy to ensure that your pet won’t be harmed even as you get the lush, healthy lawn you want. In fact, the market for pet-friendly fertilizers is actually larger than the one for pet-friendly grass seed, as the fertilizer is the component with the most potential to really cause harm.
Even if you think that you can adequately control your pet and prevent them from going outside while the fertilizer does its work, investing in one that you know won’t harm them is still a good idea; there’s no way you can keep an eye on your pet 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Moreover, finding a pet-friendly fertilizer is arguably more important than finding a pet-friendly grass seed. It’s really the concentrated chemicals in many common lawn fertilizers that could potentially do harm to your pet, not the seeds themselves.
How Do I Find A Pet-Friendly Fertilizer?
First of all, remember that if a fertilizer comes with any precautions, specifically ones catered to homeowners that have pets, then you should follow them very closely. If, for example, a chosen fertilizer says that it’s safe for pets, but only after 24 hours, then it’s well worth it to observe that precaution and keep your pet off your lawn for a day, even if it’s a bit of a hassle.
That aside, pet-friendly fertilizers will all have some common components. Firstly, they are for the most part organic or composed of something organic. Though commercial options may have been processed and contain other additives, the base ingredient will be natural matter, such as seaweed, animal products, compost or manure. Such fertilizers are attractive in comparison to ones made from lab chemicals, as they’ll be a lot safer if your pet does end up ingesting them.
I have a full post on this website dedicated to the comparison of the best natural (organic) fertilizers on the market these days. I suggest you check it out here.
My favorite on the list is Jonathan Green’s Organic Lawn Food which is made primarily from Feather Meal, Blood Meal, & Soybean meal, all of which are safe for animals that may willingly or unwillingly ingest some of it. You can find this stuff through this affiliate link: https://shrsl.com/2w8ec
You can even see a full video I produced on how natural fertilizers work right here:
Here are some common traits of pet-friendly fertilizers:
- Many Are Made From Plant Sources: Most natural lawn food sources are made from “the leftovers” of milling processes. In fact many of these are sometimes packaged up as animal feed. Feather meal, blood meal, soybean meal, alfalfa meal, and bone meal are common ingredients in orgainc fertilizers. Bio-solids like Milorgainte are also good choices. YOu should however see this post for more information on the alternatives to Milorganite.
- Grass Clippings Are Under-Rated: Leaving the grass clippings on your lawn after you mow it is one great way to keep your grass fertilized. After being cut, the grass clippings release nitrogen, which is one of the most essential ingredients for plant growth. It’s easy, low maintenance, and best of-all, it almost certainly won’t bother your pet; they’re unlikely to eat any of the grass clippings or even be particularly bothered by it if they do. That’s because grass clippings a normal part of lawn maintenance and your pet is probably already used to them.
- Seaweed & Kelp Extracts Are Safe & Benefit Root Systems: Seaweed has the exact same effect as grass clippings, being equally rich in essential nutrients such as nitrogen. Unlike grass clippings, of course, you’ll have to actually buy the seaweed. Most seaweed-based fertilizer comes in either granule or liquid form.
- Most Animal-Based Products Are Safe When Well Aged: Animal manure, from cows, horses, chickens and the like (as well as fish emulsions and worm castings for that matter) are also good fertilizer bases when you have pets. They will all provide the nitrogen your grass needs to grow, but this is one area where it’s good to know the difference between what you’re getting. Manure will act like a slow-release fertilizer, while fish emulsions will release nitrogen much more quickly. Each kind has their own use, but if you use too much fish emulsion, you could be looking at nitrogen burn on your lawn. Use too little manure, and your grass seed may not get quite enough sustenance.
In addition, because such fertilizers are better both for animals and for the environment, they’ll almost always be clearly marked on the label. If you find a fertilizer that looks good but that doesn’t clearly say that it’s all-natural or certified organic, then chances are it isn’t, and taking a risk there may not be the best decision.
If you opt to go the organic route for fertilization then you should also plan on applying micro-nutrients to the lawn once or twice a year to ensure your lawn stays healthy and not just green and growing.
If You Have A Pet, Do You Need Pet-Friendly Grass Seed?
If you have a pet, it might not be totally necessary to buy an organic/pet-friendly grass seed, as long as you know you can control your pet and keep them off of your lawn for a while as the grass is being sown, or if you know that you can bury the seeds deeply enough that your pet won’t be able to ingest or otherwise access them.
However, even if you’re totally sure of all that, it’s probably a good idea nonetheless to go for a seed and fertilizer combination that you know will be safe.
Growing Grass For A Pet’s Lawn Shouldn’t Be Overly Hard
In short: do pet friendly grass seeds exist? The answer is yes. Though they won’t necessarily be labeled as such, concerned pet owners may be able to find organic, natural options that won’t have any harm on their pets.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, what pet owners need to avoid are grass seed variants that come pre-coated with synthetic fertilizers. If your pet ingests that kind of grass seed, it could potentially harm them. Look for brands clearly marketed as organic, natural, or environmentally friendly.
But what pet owners may need to consider even more is actually the fertilizer they use on their grass seed, not the grass seed itself. Using a totally organic grass seed won’t do you any favors if you drop a ton of fertilizing chemicals on top of it that could harm your pet anyways. Choose a fertilizer based on something natural, like seaweed or manure, that’s clearly marked as being safe for cats, dogs and other pets. That way, you can rest assured that come sowing season, you won’t have to take your pet to the veterinarian’s office.
In addition, always remember to follow the directions listen on a given fertilizer or grass seed package. Even organic fertilizers might be harmful to pets when you first put them down, so watch out for any warnings or specific time periods to keep your pet off your lawn.
Now, Don’t Forget To Water Your Lawn Deeply
Watering your plants and lawn properly is really important for their resistance to animal stressors! Hydrated grass plants will resist wear and will be able to repair themselves better and if you choose to re-seed bare spots then watering is even more important – it won’t germinate without it.
Remember, you can overwater your seed by sprinkling too long or too often. You can learn more about that in this article here.
Considering how important it is to water your seeds properly the sprinklers you use will make a big difference in repairing any lawn damage inflicted by your pet(s). Of course there are quite a few types sprinklers available out there. It can be hard to choose which is best for growing grass from seed!
Here are a few articles on this site that can help you decide:
■ Impact Sprinklers: Top 4 Impact Sprinklers on Tripod!
■ Oscillating Sprinklers: Top 4 Oscillating Sprinklers with Built-in Timers!
Also, wind can be a really important thing to keep in mind when it comes to adjusting your sprinklers. If you live in a windy environment then see this post for advice on watering the lawn or seed.