Do you know there are some smells that cats hate so much they’ll avoid them at all costs!

Such knowledge might come in handy when you’re trying to train your cat not to scratch your furniture or keep your pet away from the plants.

If you’re curious to learn more, keep on reading to discover 19 smells that repel cats.

19 Surprising Smells That Cats Hate

Cats have a fantastic sense of smell with over 45-80 million olfactory receptors in their nose to compensate for the lack of taste buds. [1]

Humans have only 5 million, so we can smell only a fraction of what our cats can.

Moreover, cats have got a Jacobson’s organ on the roof of the mouth that allows them to deep-analyze any smell. [2]

That’s why your cat remains with an open mouth when they catch an interesting scent.

Thanks to these superb senses, it’s no wonder that cats can’t stand certain aromas and run in the opposite direction.

#1 Citrus

cat in front of a bowl with lemons

Citrus fruits, such as orange, lime, lemons, and grapefruits, have a peculiar aroma that appeals to most humans.

We connect the scent with something delicious to eat.

However, cats find it repelling because it’s too strong for their delicate noses.

They might also detect aromas that our noses aren’t capable of processing.

The cat repellent abilities of citrus are well known.

That’s why many owners often advise that you place orange peels to keep the cat off the counter or place the peels around plants you wish to protect.

But citrus fruits are also toxic for cats and dogs and cause stomach discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Fortunately, you’ll rarely find a cat that likes to chew on orange peels.

#2 Mint

orange cat beside a pot with mint

Who doesn’t like the refreshing smell of mint or eucalyptus?

While mint and eucalyptus have health benefits for humans, cats hate mint aromas.

That’s a little strange since mint and catnip are from the same family.

But while many cats get high on catnip, others stay as far away from mint as possible.

Other plants with minty scents, such as wintergreen and menthol, are also likely to repel cats.

The same goes for eucalyptus, which it’s often used in eco-friendly products to repel cats.

Still, keep any mint-related plants out of your cat’s reach to be on the safe side.

Mint and eucalyptus are toxic to cats when ingested.

#3 Lavender (Lavandula)

british shorthair cat surrounded by lavenders

With its pleasant aroma and distinctive purple flower, lavender is a common garden plant found in many gardens.

People often use it in aromatherapy for its calming effect and stress-reducing properties.

While lavender has a pleasant scent for people, the aroma is too pungent for our cat’s fantastic olfactory receptors.

Many cats hate it and stay away from lavender plants.

But I’ve also seen cats sleep in lavender bushes with no ill effects.

Moreover, the ASPCA reports that lavender and lavender oil are toxic for cats and dogs. [3]

Don’t try to use lavender to calm down your anxious cat, or you can poison your pet by accident.

Ask your vet about anti-anxiety products suitable for cats.

#4  Geranium

Geranium is another common plant whole smell cats hate.

That’s not surprising since people say geranium has a citrus-like scent or a lemony-green aroma, and we know how cats feel about citrus.

While people often plant geranium in the garden to keep cats away, you should know that the plant is toxic to pets.

It can cause skin irritation and vomiting if your cat chews on the leaves.

#5 Rosemary and Thyme

Rosemary and thyme are among the most common herbs in cooking and give food a mouth-watering taste.

Cats don’t seem to mind these herbs when they steal food from our plates.

But surprisingly, many cats hate the smell of rosemary and thyme.

That’s why people often recommend planting rosemary around your garden if you wish to keep cats away.

Fortunately, both thyme and rosemary aren’t among the toxic plants for cats.

Some cat food brands also use rosemary extract as a preservative. That could explain why your cat turns up their nose at the food.

#6 Rue 

Besides rosemary and thyme, you can add rue to the list of smells cats hate. Usually, people use rue to treat breathing problems, arthritic pain, headaches, and cramps.  

However, rue has a bitter/acrid scent that’s too offensive for your cat’s nose.

As such, most cats will stay at least six to ten inches away from this herb. Still, be careful if you use rue to keep cats away.

The smell doesn’t bother all cats, and it’s dangerous for cats to ingest it.

Moreover, while rue has medical properties, large doses are toxic to humans, causing vomiting, stomach pain, and death. 

And you shouldn’t handle it with bare hands since it causes burn-like blisters. 

#7 Pennyroyal

Pennyroyal has a strong mint scent, which explains why your feline friend doesn’t like this plant at all. 

People use the leaves and oil from the plant to make medicine for breathing problems because of its strong mint aroma.  

However, while similar to mint, this plant contains some dangerous chemicals for humans and cats. 

As such, you should be careful when you use this plant to keep the cat out of the garden.

And never use pennyroyal oil. It’s very toxic to cats and can cause severe neurological issues. 

READ: All About Alstroemeria and Cats

#8 Spices

While many people love the spicy aroma of pepper, curry, and other spicy herbs, cats don’t.

Just imagine how intensive the smell must be for your cat’s senses!

As a whole, spicy or heavily seasoned food isn’t good for cats because it upsets their stomach.

That’s probably one of the reasons why cats are wary of anything that gives off such a pungent scent.

Moreover, some spicy peppers can be toxic if ingested and cause extreme stomach distress.

So, don’t sprinkle pepper flakes on the ground because your cat can swallow them when they groom.

#9 Cinnamon

cinnamon powder on a small plate: can cats eat cinnamon safely?

Cinnamon has an enticing, spicy scent, which almost everybody loves, especially in combination with milk. 

Still, many felines strongly dislike the hot, spicy cinnamon scent and don’t want anything to do with it.

So, your cinnamon cookies should be safe from grabby paws!

Moreover, cinnamon is non-toxic to cats, as stated by the ASPCA. You can use it to keep cats away from your favorite possession without harming them!

#10 Pine/Cedar

tabby cat smelling the Christmas tree

How could cats hate pine when they have such a fascination with Christmas trees?

Well, maybe cats like to destroy Christmas trees because they hate the pine smell so much.

Joke aside, a lot of cats don’t like pine or cedar, even though manufacturers used it to produce natural cat litter. 

It’s not a universally hated scent, but many cats are put off by the smell’s intensity and prefer unscented litter.

Fortunately, there are other ways to eliminate litter box odors.  

#11 Bananas

grey cat smelling a banana

Who could hate the sweet smell of bananas?

As it turns out, some cats really hate bananas and would turn their backs on you when you let them smell them.

I suspect it has to do with chemicals used on the peel to preserve the bananas.

We might not be able to detect these faint traces of chemicals, but it won’t be a problem for your cat’s olfactory receptors.

In general, bananas aren’t harmful or toxic to cats. Some cats might even enjoy them as an occasional treat.

But be careful not to spoil your cat too much since bananas are high in sugar.

#12 Coleus Canina

You might know Coleus Canina as a scaredy-cat plant, but do you know why people have named it so?

Coleus Canina has a smell that resembles a skunk and is considered a cat/dog repellent.

After all, who doesn’t hate that awful skunk smell that lingers for days?

The plant releases an unpleasant scent when someone brushes against it or breaks leaves/stems. As such, most cats don’t make the mistake of going twice near it.

#13 Dirty Litter Box

scooping cat litter

No one likes a dirty bathroom, especially clean creatures, such as cats.

Your cat will do their business anywhere else but in an unclean litter box, so keeping the litter box clean is a necessity.

Moreover, if you have multiple cats, they might hate the smell of the other cat’s waste, especially if the cats don’t like each other.

#14 Essential Oils

Essential oils have risen in popularity in recent years, and we often used them for various ailments.

However, cats hate the smell of essential oils because it’s too intense and overpowering.

Moreover, most essential oils aren’t safe for cats because they lack the necessary liver enzymes to break them down. [4]

As such, one possible side effect is liver failure.

These oils can also be absorbed through the skin or ingested while grooming and lead to ataxia, drooling, vomiting, and respiratory distress, among a few.

Cats who inhale essential oils might develop watery eyes and noses or have trouble breathing.

#15 Strong Perfumes

In general, cats aren’t big fans of perfumes and tend to run away from the room when you get near them with a perfume bottle in hand. 

In most cases, the perfume scent is far too strong for the sensitive nose of your cat, and it can irritate your cat’s lungs. 

Some perfumes also use scents and essential oils that are toxic for cats.

As such, you should be careful not to poison your kitty by accident. 

#16 Onions

You know how teary you get when you cut onions. That’s because this vegetable contains chemicals that irritate the eyes.

 Imagine how your feline feels around onions with their superb sense of smell! It’s no surprise that some cats hate onions and want nothing to do with it.

Moreover, onions are very dangerous for cats if ingested because they cause anemia.

#17 Household Cleaners

There’s nothing more pleasant than a freshly cleaned house! But not all cats like the smells of household cleaners you use.

As I already said, cats hate lemon and pine, which manufacturers often use for cleaners.

And cleaners often contain a bunch of chemicals that can irritate your cat’s nose. 

So, most cats run away from the room when they detect the pungent aroma of your household cleaners. 

#18 Other Cats

lady rubbing a sphynx cat

Have you ever petted a stray cat and then gone home, only for your kitty to act mad? That’s because your cat hates the smell of unfamiliar cats in its territory.

Cats consider you and your home a part of their territory. As such, they get mad when they think another cat is trying to steal its source of food and attention away.  

Fortunately, cats can get along with each other, but they need a bit of time to get used to each other’s scents. 

#19 Coffee Grounds

For many people, the smell of fresh morning coffee is the best aroma in the world. However, many cats hate the potent smell of coffee grounds!

FAQs

What Is a Natural Cat Repellent?

The best natural cat repellent is a smell your cat hates, such as citrus, lavender, mint, eucalyptus, or lemongrass.

What Is a Good Homemade Cat Repellent?

Mix one cup of orange, lemon, or lime peels with two cups of boiling water, two teaspoons of lemon juice, and some lemon-scented dish soap.

What Smells Are Toxic to Cats?

Many essential oils with pleasant aromas are toxic to cats, including wintergreen, pine, peppermint, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, and clove.

Conclusion

As such, you can sprinkle some coffee around the areas where you don’t want your cat to enter. 

However, ensure your cat doesn’t ingest any coffee grounds. Coffee contains caffeine, which is toxic to cats.

As you can see, there’s a good reason why cats hate certain smells and don’t dare go near them.

The pungent aroma prevents the cats from chewing on plants that could kill your pet if they consume enough or get exposed to dangerous chemicals.

If a scent is strong for you, it’s probably unbearable for your cat.

Keep that in mind, when you light candles and don’t use essential oils around your cat.

cat looking at the lemon on the table

What do you think about these smells that cats hate? Which scents does your cat avoid? Tell us in the comment section.

Resources

  • 1. Why Cats Sniff Butts [Internet]. vca_corporate. Available from: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-cats-sniff-butts
  • 2. Johnson-Bennett P. What is the Vomeronosal Organ in Cats? [Internet]. catbehaviorassociates.com. 2012. Available from: https://catbehaviorassociates.com/what-is-the-vomeronasal-organ/
  • 3. Lavender [Internet]. ASPCA. [cited 2022 Apr 11]. Available from: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/lavender
  • 4. List of Essential Oils that are Safe for Your Cat [Internet]. AvoDerm. 2020 [cited 2022 Apr 11]. Available from: https://www.avodermnatural.com/blog/essential-oils-cats-safe-list
Grigorina S
Grigorina S

I’ve grown up surrounded by animals – dogs, cats, cows, goats, sheep, and horses and that has shaped me into what I am today – a crazy cat lady who always has a place for one more cat (or a dog). I’ve got two female cats – Kitty and Roni, and two tomcats – Blacky and Shaggy, but I also feed my neighbors’ cats when they come for a visit. I just can’t say no to them.

I discovered that writing is my vocation early in my school years. Since then I’ve taken part in several literature contests – writing horror and fantasy short stories and novellas.
For the past three years, I’ve been an ELS teacher, pouring my heart into showing children and teenagers how important English is for their future and trying to educate them how to treat their pets with care.

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