Whether your kitty is digging in the house plants or defecating outside the litter box, certain smells will work surprisingly well to correct this behavior. Cats have a powerful sense of smell and put a lot of trust in that nose of theirs. So that brings us to the question: What scents do cats not like?

As it turns out, there are quite a few smells cats just can’t stand. And they’ll do just about anything to get away from these scents. Consequently, you can leverage this distaste to alter some not-so-good behavior or keep your cat away from certain areas.

Luckily, you’ll probably be able to find a lot of these scents just laying around the house. There are both natural, home-made cat repellents and some synthetic repellents you can buy. Which you use is up to you. However, the latter type can be toxic and potentially harmful to your kitty. Personally, I tend to take the natural route, so that’s the type we’ll be covering in this article.

Scents Cats Don’t Like

Cats are guaranteed to hate these smells almost as much they hate car rides:

  • Citrus
  • Peppermint
  • Lavender
  • Citronella
  • Lemongrass
  • Orange
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Geranium
  • Coleus Canina
  • Rue
  • Rosemary
  • Pennyroyal
  • Vinegar
  • Dirty Litter Box

I wanted to give you the full list of scents before we dive into each one. As you can see, there’s no shortage of smells your cat finds abhorrent. You almost certainly have a couple of these laying around your home.

Natural Cat Repellents

As I said before, I prefer using natural solutions. Lucky for us, most of the deterrents on the list come straight from Mother Earth.

Cats have more than 200 million odor sensors in their noses. For reference, us humans have a mere 5 million. Easy to see why that list is so long now, isn’t it? Unfortunately for felines (and their fellow canines), a sensitive sense of smells is a double-edged sword. One edge of that sword is below in the form of scents cats don’t like.

Essential Oils

Cat parents have figured out that most essential oils work great if you want to deter your cat from peeing, pooping or spraying where they shouldn’t be. These oils include:

  • Citronella
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Lemongrass
  • Orange
  • Citrus

You may get varying effects, so try a few out and see which one works best. You can even trying combining them for an extra effect. To make a homemade cat repellent, mix three parts water with one part essential oil in a spray bottle. Give it a good shake and spray down the area you want off limits.


Is the neighbors cat always causing trouble in your well-tended, beloved garden? Try adding a few of these plants cats hate to keep that rascal at bay:

  • Coleus Canina – also known as the Scaredy Cat Plant. A member of the mint family that gives off a distinctive skunk-like smell.
  • Rue – also known as Ruta graveolens. Semi-wood perennial that cats tend to avoid like the plague.
  • Lavender – can also be effective in plant-form. However, it can potentially be toxic to cats who have eaten large quantities.
  • Rosemary – also known as Rosmarinus officinalis. Gives off a strong odor and is non-toxic to cats.
  • Geranium – also known as Pelargonium spp. Some varieties can be mildly toxic to cats.
  • Pennyroyal – used to be used as in flea prevention but not anymore. Can be very toxic to both cats and dogs. Avoid use.

All of these plants have smells that cats hate. Although you may not have a garden, some of the plants on the list are commonly kept as indoor plants. If you don’t want your kitty romping around a certain room, a rue plant on the windowsill might just do the trick.

However, beware that some plants on the list may be toxic. I’ve included a warning next to a few of the more dangerous plants. Pennyroyal in particular is very toxic to most animals and shouldn’t be used as a cat repellent. If you notice any vomiting, lethargy or weakness, call your vet or the AAPCC right away. Pennyroyal can cause nerve damage, anemia, seizures or even death; so this is not something you want to mess around with. I only included it on the list because it is technically a natural cat repellent.

Miscellaneous Smells Cats Hate

These last few scents don’t really fit into a particular group but I still wanted to cover them.

If you don’t want to use any of the aforementioned plants to keep cats out of your garden, another common solution is cayenne pepper. The nasty taste and irritating effect should drive them right into someone else’s garden. You can make a solution with one part cayenne pepper and sixteen parts water. Or just sprinkle some of the powder around the base and leaves of your plants.

As you know, vinegar is very useful outside the kitchen. With pets in particular. Not only can it aide digestion, treat UTIs and keep ticks away; vinegar also makes a great cat repellent. Mix it with water at a 1:1 ratio and load it up in a spray bottle. Wouldn’t hurt to mix it with your choice of essential oil either.

Most humans don’t like a dirty bathroom and cats are much the same. They are a very sanitary species. That’s why if you notice your kitty laying in the litter box, you may have a problem on your hands.

Felines like their litter box to be clean and tidy, so make sure you keep it that way. Otherwise, the nasty aroma rising from their potty may just drive them to pee or poop somewhere you don’t want them to. I know, keeping the thing clean is not the most glamorous job in the world, but it must be done. To make your life way easier, I recommend you pick up an automatic cat litter box. In particular the Litter-Robot. I got one and I’m NEVER going back to scooping.

I left the dirty litter box for last because you probably don’t want to rub that disgusting crystal litter all over the place.

For me, out of all the scents cats don’t like, the essential oils work the best. It’s super easy to make a spray and you probably won’t use all of it so it’s around for next time. Plus, I love the smell!

what scents do cats not like

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