What Smells Do Cats Hate?

Picture or a cat

If you’re a cat owner, you have most likely figured out that cats prefer certain scents over others. There are some scents that will drive your kitty nuts. Cats are especially sensitive to smells as their sense of smell is 14 times greater than ours. This is partly because the receptors for smelling are located throughout your cat’s head, not just in its nose. In the wild, their enhanced sense of smell serves many very important purposes– to alert them to danger, help them find food, and, of course, help them find mates. In our homes, however, this sense of smell means that there may be some smells that drive your cat up a wall. We will discuss some of them here.


Certain spices will definitely repel your cat from jumping on the kitchen counters, if left out. These include cloves, cayenne pepper, black pepper, (any type of pepper, really), curry, and mustard. In fact, cats perceive spicy smells as toxic. Some people use cayenne pepper to keep kitties off plants outdoors. This is not recommended, however, as it can poison a cat and make it quite sick, giving it an allergic reaction.


Cats dislike citrusy smells, such as grapefruit, oranges, limes and lemons. Lemons are particularly dangerous, as they can be toxic to cats if ingested. Some cat owners use citrus peels around a Christmas tree to keep kitties away. Spraying objects with orange oil will also deter cats from exploring their curiosity around these objects.

Herbal Smells and Essential Oils

There are many herbal smells that put cats off. These include scents such as eucalyptus oil and wintergreen. You should never use eucalyptus oil as a cat deterrent, as it can be toxic to cat. Any essential oils can, in fact, pose a hazard to your cat, and should never be used around felines.  The higher the concentration of the oil, the more of a risk the cat will face.


If you’ve ever noticed your kitty scurrying away from you when you’re cleaning the bathroom with pine oil, chances are the scent that seems so clean and fresh to you is driving her away. Cats can stand a little pine scent, such as that of pine-scented cat litter, but intense pine smells will repel them. This is a reason many cat owners advocate using unscented cat litter – so that kitty doesn’t refuse to use the litter box due to a cat litter’s overpowering scent.

Dirty Litter Box

It is quite normal that cats will hate the smell of their own waste in a litter box. No one wants to go to the bathroom in a dirty toilet. If you don’t clean your cat’s litter box, don’t be surprised if she decides to go elsewhere, relieving herself in other parts of your home. Cats are fastidious and won’t want to get their paws dirty pawing through old waste.  The rule of thumb for cat owners regarding litter boxes is that you should clean hard waste out of your cat box out at least once a day, and change the litter entirely at least once weekly.


Cats dislike the scent of bananas. Many owners use banana peels to deter cats from jumping on furniture for this reason, as they are safe and non-toxic to cats. You can either rub the furniture (or other object you are trying to keep kitty away from) with the banana peel, or leave an actual banana peel on it, and your cat will likely stay away from that object for most of the day. Of course, banana peels lose their scent quickly and would need to be replaced daily if you’re using this method as a cat deterrent.

Fish That Has Gone Bad

Yes, cats love fish. They can tell, however, if a fish has gone bad and shouldn’t be eaten. If a food, especially fish, is out of date, cats can smell it and will shy away from it (usually). Don’t risk it– if you have old fish around, don’t let kitty near it, just in case she tries to eat it and it sickens her.

Stranger Cats

Most cats don’t like the smell of cats that are strangers to them. They are fine with the smells of cats that they are friendly with or see regularly. Other cats outdoors, however, or a new cat coming into your house, will drive them wild. Cats don’t like the scent of stranger cats and are very territorial, marking their homes by rubbing on items (and owners). Don’t be surprised if your cat acts out against a “stranger cat” by spraying in the house to mark her territory.

Deodorants and Soaps

Strong smelling soaps and deodorants will repel cats, so make sure not to clean kitty’s litter box or food/water bowls with them. If you change your deodorant or soap and your cat starts avoiding you or will no longer sit in your lap, that might also be the cause—your cat doesn’t like anything that messes with her owner’s natural scent.


Mothballs are another item that repel cats but are toxic to them. They should never be used around cats or as a cat repellant. Mothballs contain chemicals and gases that repel moths and insects but can also kill cats or make them very sick.

If you think that your cat has been exposed to something toxic, make sure to contact your veterinarian immediately. You can also call the Animal Poison Control Center, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at (855) 764-7661.



One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Table of Contents