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Home > Cats > Smells That Cats Hate: 7 Repelling Options

Smells That Cats Hate: 7 Repelling Options

calico maine coon cat lying on the grass

Cats have some of the strongest olfactory (smell) senses in the animal kingdom. Some cats even have a stronger sense of smell than dogs, which are known for their scenting behaviors.

Because cats have a more sensitive and developed sense of smell, they experience smells more intensely than humans—and they don’t always like them.

Let’s take a look at seven smells that cats hate, so you can eliminate the smells from your home or use the smells as a repellent for areas you want cat-free, such as your furniture or garden.divider-cat

Top 7 Smells Cats Hate

1. Citrus Scents

citrus fruit
Image Credit: Obodai26 from Pixabay

Most cats are bothered by citrus smells, such as lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. You can benefit from this by using orange or lemon peels in your garden to keep cats out or spritzing citrus scents on indoor fabrics.

Your cats are unlikely to ingest citrus fruit, given their distaste for it. but do your best to keep the peels out of reach.

2. Lavender and Eucalyptus

lavender plant
Image Credit: katerinavulcova, Pixabay

Lavender can be used to deter a lot of animals, including deer and insects. In some cases, lavender in your garden will keep your cat from messing with your plants, especially if it’s mixed with other pungent smells like eucalyptus.

These plants are mildly toxic to cats, however, so keep them fenced and don’t bring them into the house. It’s also best to avoid using these essential oils in areas where your cat can ingest them.

3. Rosemary and Thyme

spoonful of thyme
Image Credit: gate74, Pixabay

Common cooking herbs, rosemary and thyme have strong smells that cats don’t like. These can be added to your garden or put in pots in areas where you want to deter cats.

Rosemary and thyme are mostly harmless to cats, but avoid using essential oils with these scents, and in general. They’re concentrated and can cause digestive upset and discomfort if ingested.

4. Pepper and Curry

Black peppercorns on wooden spoon
Image Credit: ka_re, Pixabay

Strong spices like pepper and curry are not fun for cats, which is why many people use cayenne or pepper flakes as a deterrent for cats. This is not ideal, however. Peppers have capsaicin, which can produce potentially toxic VOCs. So, while it may keep your cat away from an off-limits area, a curious or undeterred cat could become quite sick. Better to opt for a safer alternative.

5. Vinegar

Credit: NatureFriend, Pixabay

Most cats hate the scent of vinegar, and it can be used as a safe deterrent just about anywhere. Vinegar smells strong to humans, but usually the scent tones down as it dries. Cats can still smell it, though, which makes it an effective deterrent.

Keep in mind that some cats will urinate on vinegar, so pay attention to how your cat reacts. Avoid cleaning any accidents with vinegar, since it can encourage repeated urination to dominate the scent.

6. Coffee

coffee bean
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

Cats rarely mess with our coffee, and that has everything to do with the strong smell. Caffeine can be toxic to cats, so it’s a good thing that they avoid coffee.

You can use coffee grounds to keep cats out of your garden, but be sure to put them in a container to avoid any cats accidentally ingesting them.

7. Dirty Litter

cat beside litterbox
Image Credit: Alexandra Morosanu, Shutterstock

Cats are more solitary creatures and use urine to mark their territory. This is to keep other cats from venturing into their space. Cats don’t enjoy the smell of their own urine or anyone else’s, however, so it’s important to keep the litter box clean and tidy. If you don’t, you may encourage your cat to turn other parts of your house into a suitable litter box, like your bed or couch.

If you have a multiple-cat household, make sure you have enough litter boxes for everyone to claim their own space. Cats can boss each other around and intimidate other cats away from the litter box, so be sure that the litter boxes are all comfortable and available for your cats to use. If you notice a dominance problem, move one or more litter boxes far away or to another room.



Cats’ powerful sense of smell can make even the most pleasant scents (for us) a nuisance for them, which you can use to your advantage. If you want to keep your cat out of your garden or away from furniture, you can use scents you know your cat hates as a deterrent. It’s important to be careful with essential oils and scents that can be toxic to cats, however.

Featured Image Credit: Aleksei Verhovski, Shutterstock

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