HomeCatsLiving With Cats25 Smells Cats Hate And When to Use Them

25 Smells Cats Hate And When to Use Them

Cats have truly amazing noses. They can smell things we will never even notice a hint of, and are masters at sniffing out things of interest, most notably food. 

These extra sensitive noses also happen to dislike quite a few smells. You may have already noticed your cat leaving the room every time you make yourself a lemonade or use vinegar to clean the sink. If you are looking for a cat deterrent or simply want to annoy your cat (which I definitely don’t recommend!), here are the smells you can use. 

Citruses, Especially Lemon

Cats can’t stand the smell of citrus fruits, lemon in particular. They will stay well clear of any citruses (which is lucky, since they can cause vomiting and diarrhea when ingested), so you can use them to your advantage if you want to keep your cat away from a piece of furniture. 

Mix equal parts water and lemon juice and spray over the areas you want to keep cat-free. You can also toss orange and lemon peels around your garden if you want to keep the neighborhood cats out. 


Cats hate the smell of lavender too, so you can use lavender essential oil mixed with water to repel them. Note that lavender is toxic to cats, so you never want to let one accidentally ingest either the plant or the essential oil. Most cats will know to stay away though.

If you want an outdoor repellent, you can plant lavender around the home. It will both liven up your property and keep felines away. 

If you are using a lavender-based pillow mist or other beauty product, note that your cat will likely not be willing to join you for a bedtime cuddle. Try finding another scent that calms you down and helps you sleep that they will like too, like chamomile. 


Geranium is another plant that you can use to deter outdoor felines. Be mindful that it is also toxic to them, so you don’t want to leave any parts of the plant lying around where cats can accidentally ingest it. 


Eucalyptus has that minty, citrusy smell that cats hate, so you can plant it in your garden to keep cats out. It is also toxic to felines, so be careful when handling it before spending time with your cat. 

Any Type of Mint

Speaking of mint, cats hate the smell of all types of said plant, including peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen. 

It is also toxic to them, so if you are planting it in your garden, make sure you don’t overexpose your cat to the smell, and carefully wash your hands after handling it. 


Rosemary is a smell cats hate but which is luckily not toxic to them, so this might be the one you choose to use as a deterrent in your home. You can use it both in essential oil form and as a plant. Since you can also use it to make your meals tastier, it’s a good one to have in a pot in your kitchen.

If you strategically place your pot on the counter where you don’t want the cat to venture, you can effectively keep them away. 


Thyme is another culinary herb you can use to repel cats and keep them away from the kitchen countertops. You can plant it in the same pot as the rosemary, and have a great selection of herbs to use in cooking. 

You can also place thyme in tiny satchels around your home, if there are areas you wish your cat didn’t venture into. As it is non toxic to your cat, you won’t have to worry about their curiosity overpowering their nose. 


Pine has a very strong smell that cats tend to dislike. If you use pine-scented products for cleaning or giving your home that wintery smell, your cat may be very displeased. 

Some types of pine are also toxic to cats. This includes fir and spruce trees that we often use as Christmas trees. Cats don’t seem to know that though, as they are known for climbing said trees whenever they get the chance. 

This type of exposure will not harm your cat, but you do need to make sure they don’t ingest any part of a pine or Christmas tree, as they can get ill. 


Cats typically don’t like the smell of bananas. They may be fine with them until you start eating one, when they will likely leave the premises. You can’t always use bananas as a cat repellant, but if you have a banana-scented candle, note that your cat will not like it. 


Mustard is another smell cats dislike, probably because it’s so strong. If you are putting some on your dinner, your cat is not likely to want a piece of the meal, so you can use it if you want to eat uninterrupted. 

Pepper and Curry 

Cats also hate the strong smells of pepper and curry, which are simply too overpowering for their sensitive noses. Note that you shouldn’t use either as a repellent though, as they can harm your cat, especially if they are particularly strong. 


Cinnamon will also make your cat run from the room, so don’t be surprised if they don’t want to help you bake that apple pie. It’s not toxic to them, so you don’t have to worry about leaving some out by accident. 

Tomatoes and Onions

Both tomatoes and onions are toxic to cats. Luckily, due to their strong smell, cats are not likely to even want to try a bite of the latter. You do need to make sure you don’t give them meat that has been seasoned with onions (or garlic for that matter). 

As for tomatoes, they are particularly offensive to cats, especially while still on the stem or stalk. Make sure your cat never gets the chance to eat any green parts of the tomato plant, as they are toxic to them. 

Ground Coffee

Cats don’t like the strong smell of coffee, which happens to be a good thing, as caffeine is actually very toxic to them. Make sure your kitty has zero chance of getting into anything caffeinated. 

Also try not to use ground coffee as a cat repellant, as it can get onto their paws and fur, and they are likely to end up ingesting it while grooming.


Vinegar is often used as a cleaning agent, and it also happens to be one of those smells cats hate. White vinegar in particular is a great cat deterrent, so you can spray it where you don’t want your cat to sharpen its claws. Use equal parts water and vinegar to make your concoction. 

On the other hand, note that cleaning up cat pee with vinegar can result in them peeing in the same spot over and over again, in an attempt to cover up the smell. When getting cat pee out of the couch, aim for an enzymatic cleaner instead. 

Dirty Litter Box

Cats also hate the smell of a dirty litter box. If you leave it unattended and poop starts piling up, your cat will remonstrate with you. 

If you have multiple cats, they may refuse to go in the same litter box, as the smell of the other cat simply drives them away. Aim to have a litter box for each cat, so they can do their business in peace.

Spoiled Food

Cats are also great at sniffing out spoiled food. If something is even a tiny bit off, they will not touch it. You can even use them as a taste test: if your cat refuses to eat something, it’s probably ready to be thrown out. 

Make sure you don’t give them too much human food: only a couple of bites at a time, and only foods that are not toxic to them and that are not high in salt or sugar. 

Strong Chemicals and Beauty Products

Cats will also hate the smell of cleaning chemicals. If it’s too strong, they will vacate the premises. The same goes for beauty products and candles. They will also notice if you’ve changed your laundry detergent, and may even avoid you if they don’t like it. 

Other Cats and Pets

Cats use their noses to identify things, animals and humans included. If an animal they have not yet met or one they particularly dislike suddenly appears, their noses will alert them. 

This is why you’ll notice cats rubbing against their humans: they are marking them as their territory, so other animals know they are taken. 


Cats know to beware of skunks. They are also aware of the fact that they need to keep away from Coleus Canina, the plant that gives off that particularly skunk-ey smell. 

How Can I Use Smells To Deter My Cat?

If you want to keep your cat away from certain areas of the home, you can use basil and white vinegar, as they are not toxic to cats. Lemon and orange peel also work. 

You can leave bananas or citruses on the counter, if you don’t want your cat anywhere near it. For preventing unwanted scratching, you can try a lemon and water or a vinegar and water solution. 

You can also plant some rosemary and thyme in a pot and keep it on the countertop where you would rather not see any paw prints. 

Wrapping It Up 

Be careful when using any of these smells cats dislike: some of the plants mentioned are toxic to cats, so you want to make sure they don’t accidentally ingest them. 

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