What Smells Do Cats Hate? Here Are 26

What smells do cats hate? From the spices in your kitchen to cleaning products in your pantry, to the run of the mill herbs and flowers in your garden, there are items all over your house that your cat most likely detests. One of the most universally hated scents? Lavender!

Cats have a very strong sense of smell (they have 200 million odor-sensitive cells compared to our modest 5 million) and rely more on their olfactory system more than they do on other senses. It’s important if you’re a cat owner to know which scents to avoid and which herbs, plants, and spices can even be harmful to your kitty’s health.

If you want to know more about what smells cats can’t stand, keep reading!

Some smells cats hate include:

  • Dirty litter boxes
  • Citrus and bananas
  • Thyme, rosemary, and rue
  • Mint, wintergreen, and menthol
  • Pepper, curry, and cinnamon
  • Household cleaners, soap, perfume, and deodorant

26 Smells cats hate

You may simply be curious about discovering which smells cats hate, but having a solid grasp of what is truly odious for your cat’s furry little sniffer can also be advantageous for you if you’re a cat parent.

For one, if you have a scratch happy cat who claws your furniture, or a kitty who is notorious for peeing outside of the litter box and onto your carpet, you can spray the area with certain smells to keep them away.

Even if you don’t have a cat, knowing what smells cats hate can keep stray cats in your neighborhood away from your garden and prevent them from digging up your flower beds or vegetable patch or pooping in your yard.

What one smell do cats hate the most?

There’s one smell that cats hate above all. Can you guess what it is?

A dirty litter box

Yes, really! All cat owners know too well that if you forget to regularly scoop your cats’ litter boxes that it gets filthy and smelly fast. But that’s not all. Heavily soiled litter boxes overloaded with feces and urine can be a real turn-off for your cat. Cats are clean animals, and they’re very sensitive to the areas where they poop and pee. If their litter box reeks of waste they might not want to use it at all and may poop and pee elsewhere in your house. Especially if you have multiple cats all using the same box.

what smells do cats hate dirty litterbox

25 Other smells cats hate

Here are another 25 smells, besides a dirty litter box that felines aren’t particularly fond of.


Cats strongly dislike the smell of oranges, limes, and lemons since the smell of citrus are extremely strong and pungent.

If you want to discourage your cat from entering a certain room in your house or keep them away from your garden, you can try placing citrus peels around the area.

You can also easily make a citrus-scented spray to deter your cat from scratching and ripping up your furniture and the carpets in your house.


This one might come as a surprise. Cats dislike the smell of bananas because as they ripen, they release ethyl acetate, which has a strong smell of acetone, a sweet scent that a majority of cats dislike.

Try using ripe banana peels around your garden to keep cats away. While they will not particularly like the smell, it won’t harm them if they eat it, as bananas are non-toxic to cats.


Although cinnamon is non-toxic to cats, they still perceive it as toxic since the smell of cinnamon is intensely spicy. You can sprinkle a small amount of cinnamon powder on your garden to keep your cat or even stray cats away, as it won’t harm them—just deter them. Avoid cinnamon oil, though, as it can be poisonous.


Curry often contains hot spices like cayenne, black pepper, dry mustard, and cinnamon, which are all extremely unappealing to cats. As mentioned above, cats also associate these odors with toxicity. So, if you’re ordering an Indian takeout, don’t be surprised if your cat isn’t seen around the kitchen for a while!

Pepper Spicy foods such as black pepper, bell pepper, chili pepper, and cayenne pepper make cats flee because they smell toxic to them. Peppers contain alkaloids that affect an animal’s nervous system when ingested. Consuming a lot of spicy food can be toxic to cats, this is why cats hate the smell of pepper or any other spicy food/It’s their instincts protecting them from harmful and potentially poisonous foods!


Spicy foods such as black pepper, bell pepper, chili pepper, and cayenne pepper make cats flee because they smell toxic to them.

Peppers contain alkaloids that affect an animal’s nervous system when ingested. Consuming a lot of spicy food can be toxic to cats, this is why cats hate the smell of pepper or any other spicy food/It’s their instincts protecting them from harmful and potentially poisonous foods!


While mustard doesn’t smell particularly pungent to us, a cats’ strong smell still detects that it’s indeed a hot and spicy food and thus potentially dangerous to be around.


While most humans like the fresh smell of eucalyptus, the odor is too strong and overpowering for cats. Even a small whiff of eucalyptus could send a cat running! So if you plant eucalyptus in your garden, or scatter it around the area, you probably won’t see any cats around. However, be aware that eucalyptus essential oils can be toxic for both cats and dogs. Avoid them at all costs.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is another essential oil to steer clear of. Not only is its acrid smell pungent, but it’s also harmful to cats. As little as seven drops of 100% tea tree oil have resulted in severe poisoning in dogs and cats.


While peppermint smells refreshing and pleasant to us, this is not the case for some cats—and with a good reason, too. Peppermint contains salicylate, a chemical that can also be found in aspirin and is poisonous to cats.

But be careful, as some cats can be attracted to the smell of peppermint because it contains compounds similar to nepetalactone, otherwise known as catnip which we all know cats adore.

what smells do cats hate peppermint


Wintergreen oil has an intense smell for anyone, but cats, in particular, don’t like it at all. You can soak a cotton ball in a wintergreen oil and leave it in any place around your house or garden to deter cats.


Many people are surprised that cats don’t like the smell of mint and menthol since it’s from the same family as catnip. But, inhaling the scent of menthol can irritate their sensitive noses, so most cats prefer to stay far away from anything menthol scented.


Rosemary is a wonderful herb for cooking, but did you know it can also be used as a natural cat repellant in your garden? A big plus is that while cats dislike the smell of it, rosemary isn’t toxic to pets. However, it does contain volatile oils, which could cause stomach issues if consumed in large amounts by cats.


Thyme is another great herb that doubles as a natural non-toxic cat repellant. You can plant it in your garden or have it in pots to move around the house and places you don’t want your cat to be around.


Also known as pudding grass, pennyroyal is also a part of the mint family, which means many cats are naturally turned off by it. This fragrant herb can be planted in your garden to ward off feline visitors. Make sure it isn’t digested though, because it can be non-toxic cat repellant.

what smells do cats hate marigolds

Geranium and Marigolds

For humans, these flowery plants smell pleasant. But, for our feline friends, geraniums and marigolds give off a terrible odor. With good reason too, since every part of this plant is poisonous to cats.

This makes geraniums and marigolds an excellent choice for a natural cat repellant, with the added bonus of bringing a pop of color to your garden or yard.


Cats turn their noses up at certain herbs, including rue. Since rue is a pretty strongly scented herb, planting it around your garden or backyard will keep cats away from digging up or pooping in your grass, vegetables, or flowers.

what smells do cats hate lavender


Cats’ keen sense of smell can also be irritated by many different floral scents, including lavender. While lavender smells lovely to humans, cats don’t enjoy it. You can easily use lavender as a natural repellant in your garden or even use a lavender-scented spray around your house to keep cats away from certain areas. But be careful, as too much lavender can be toxic for cats if it directly touches their skin, or is ingested.


Pine isn’t a universally disliked smell among cats, though many cats don’t enjoy the smell. You can buy natural cat litters that are made out of materials such as pine, but the strong smell of it might bother some cats. If you see them not using their litter box, it’s best if you opt for an alternative natural litter instead, like paper or corn.


Cedar is another smell that cats dislike. Because it’s nontoxic you can use cedar chips or compost in the garden as a natural repellent to discourage cats from roaming your yard without harming them.


Most of us use deodorant daily to avoid body odor, but traditional antiperspirant deodorant products are often made from chemicals and artificial fragrances.


To many of us, there’s nothing nicer than the smell of a quality perfume. But to a scent-sensitive cat, the most commonly used scents like citron, patchouli, and ylang-ylang are simply too fragrant for their little noses. Some perfumes are potent enough to practically knock us out, so imagine how irritating these smells can be to felines who have a much stronger sense of smell than humans.

Household cleaners

The most popular commercial household cleaners often contain a lengthy list of chemicals and artificial fragrances that only vaguely resemble the “lemon” or “pine” they’re advertised as. These can be hard for us to breathe around, let alone our cats. It’s best to choose gentler, plant-based cleaners that are unscented or very mildly scented. Try to avoid household cleaners that contain irritating fragrances like lavender, citrus, or peppermint..


Be careful when you clean your cat’s food bowls, litter boxes, and bedding with soap or detergent. Many commercial dish liquids and laundry detergents contain chemicals or essential oils that are overpowering. Your best option is to choose gentle plant-based cleaners like Seventh Generation’s unscented dish soap and detergent.


If you’ve ever taken a whiff of a bottle of vinegar, chances are you’ve noticed a tingling or burning sensation in your nose. Now imagine that multiplied 14 times. Vinegar is one of the most potent odors for your cats’ sensitive nose.


Bleach has a strong odor, so most cats don’t like it. However, some cats are attracted to the smell of bleach since the smell of it might be connected to their pheromones, triggering a biological, hormonal reaction to the scent. Either way, keep bleach well away from your feline.

what smells do cats hate other cats

Do cats dislike the smell of other cats?

Cats may dislike the smell of other cats they aren’t used to, but this has to do more with behavioral issues like territory and safety rather than smell alone. Unless it’s another animal or human from their household, cats generally don’t appreciate the smell of cats, animals, or humans they’re unfamiliar with.

What smells do cats hate to pee on?

If your cat is urinating on or spraying in a specific area of your house, don’t worry as there are certain smells that can help you put an end to that messy business and prevent future peeing or spraying.

You can make your own cat repellent by mixing 16 ounces of water with 10 to 15 drops of peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, or lavender essential oil and spraying it on the area your cat has been peeing on.

What smell will repel a cat?

A mixture of vinegar, fresh lemon juice, and water makes a powerful non-toxic repellent for cats. You could also use orange peels, and herbs such as thyme and rosemary cats to keep cats away from certain areas.

Are you surprised by the smells that cats hate?

From common garden herbs to vinegar, to humble citrus peels, now you know the smells that cats hate.

As we’ve explored above cats have a powerful sense of smell and can detect odors that humans can’t. And not only can certain smells be offensive to cats, but they could also be harmful to their health, even deadly.

Armed with this knowledge you can make better decisions about what to bring into your home, what is safe to use around your kitty, and the best non-toxic ways to naturally keep roaming or stray cats from digging up or pooping in your garden or flower beds.

Victoria Tomis