8+ Smells Cats Absolutely Hate and Are Sure To Deter Them!

As a cat owner, there’s nothing like waking up to the sounds of melodic purring, taking a deep breath, and getting a giant whiff of the stinky litter box that your little buddy just made a deposit in. 

Now imagine that smell multiplied times four—that’s how your cat experiences that smell, and every other smell in their orbit.

You probably owe your cat an apology for your own open bathroom door policy.

Cats have ultra-sensitive olfactory senses.

Since they aren’t in charge of anything except cuddles and the best internet videos, they don’t get much of a say in the smells that enter into their environment, which could be the reason for some of their less than ideal behaviors. 

If you’re looking to improve your cat’s disposition (it really can be done), or help stop unwanted behaviors, changing up the smell profile in your home can be a great solution.

Also, if you don’t own a cat, never want to own a cat, and have feral cats terrorizing your home or garden, utilizing smells and simple natural tricks can help rid your environment of the unwelcome felines.

1. Citrus: Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Grapefruits, and Tangerines

Who doesn’t love one of the best sources of vitamin C on the planet? Cats. 

They are not on board with the smell profile of anything in the citrus family.

Anything from oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangerines, and everything in between is bound to be at odds with a cat’s nose. 

If you’re looking to keep some territorial Tabbies’ out of your garden, try tossing orange peels around the perimeter of the area.

Using the peels of citrus in areas where they can naturally decompose also provides nutrients for your plants. 

If the peels seem to ward off the unwanted visitors, make sure and put out fresh peels every few days until they get the “go away” message.

For the indoor kitty who can’t seem to stop jumping on your favorite chair, or scratching the curtains, some people swear by leaving whole, thin-skinned citrus fruits like tangerines, around the area you don’t want kitty to visit.

After a few close encounters, the cat will get the message to take their antics elsewhere.

One product a few cat owners, and cat haters, swear by is the aptly named Angry Orange.

This product can be used to clean up messes and ward off kitties from areas you’d like them to avoid.

Citrus is a great option for all cat related issues because it is non-toxic. Though it might cause them to give you some side-eye, it won’t make them sick.

2. Mint

Though popping a stick of peppermint gum may be necessary for a romantic moment, it will definitely not warrant a kiss from your kitty.

Anything minty, wintergreen, or menthol smells very pungent to cats. 

Even though mint and catnip are from the same family, they definitely do not elicit the same reaction from your furry friend.

Mint in any form, whether it is candy, oil, or spray, can quickly ward off cats and keep them away.

Planting mint in corners of your garden is a simple solution to keep away any unwelcome neighbor cats. 

Some adventurous, and clearly exhausted, people have even resorted to putting toothpaste around their yard. Just be prepared to clean up sticky, sun-baked toothpaste at a later time. 

The downside to any herb in the mint family is that if ingested, mint can be very toxic to cats. Some cats may let their curiosity get the best of them and try a bite of the plant or oil, and get very sick.

This form of deterrent is best used under supervision to make sure mint repels the cat and doesn’t peak his interest. 

3. Bananas (and Mustard)

If you haven’t seen a video of a cat being surprised by a banana, please do yourself a favor and watch one now.

But suffice to say, cats and bananas do not go well together. 

Cats also are not fans of mustard. It’s unclear what cats have against yellow foods, but these items tend to bother most cats.

Both bananas and mustard smells are very pungent to cats.

Much like citrus fruits, leaving banana peels in an outdoor area can be a very natural and easy way to ward off unwelcome cats.

Though no promises it won’t attract some pesky neighborhood monkeys!

However, as with all cats, there’s always the odd cat that enjoys the taste of bananas. The good news is much like for humans, bananas are actually a good source of nutrients for cats. 

If your weirdo cat does like the taste of bananas, make sure to only give them a little bit at a time, as bananas are high in sugar.

Spreading mustard around your house doesn’t seem like the best way to use the condiment, but if kitty loves to jump on your kitchen counters when you’re not around, leaving an opened bottle of mustard on the counter might stop that behavior entirely. 

4. Floral Scents

Don’t expect any flower deliveries from your cat on special holidays.

Most cut flowers, lavender, eucalyptus, and geranium may make your house smell great, but these smells are generally very odorous, and mostly toxic, to your cat.

If your kitty isn’t deterred by these floral smells and decides to take a little bite of these items, it can cause excess salivation, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, depression, or dermatitis.

These are all serious conditions in cats and can be fatal. 

However, if you notice that the cat does have a strong reaction to these smells, you could try dabbing an essential oil version of these scents in the area you’d like your cat to avoid.

It has the benefit of smelling good to people, but keeping kitties in other areas that are safer for them.

If you see a cat ingest any of these plants, it’s best to contact your local vet.

5. Herbal Scents

Cats may turn up their noses at herbs we commonly use such as rosemary, thyme, or rue. The fresher these smells are, the less likely your cat will enjoy them.

Other herbs like pepper, curry, and cinnamon are also very effective at offending a cat’s delicate nose. 

As with any of the above natural solutions, it’s best to observe and test out which smells your cat responds to.

Pepper and cayenne pepper flakes are not good for cats, so it’s not a good idea to sprinkle those spices in any outside areas. 

But cinnamon is not toxic to cats and can be an easily accessible deterrent you can sprinkle just about anywhere.

As an added bonus, ants do not like cinnamon, so sprinkling a little wall of cinnamon can keep cats and ants out of your way!

6. Vinegar

It’s not hard to figure out why cats would hate the smell of nearly any vinegar. Its pungent aromatics in nearly any form, are enough to ward off most animals (including human houseguests that overstay their welcome).

If outdoor feral cats are wreaking havoc on your garden or yard, you can soak some old rags in white vinegar and put them on stakes spread around your yard.

If this seems to do the trick, replace the rags about once a week until the visitors are no longer interested in your space.

White vinegar is non-toxic to most animals so you can also spray a one-part vinegar and a two-part water mixture on trees, plants, fences, or your garden’s border.

Double-check that the plant life in your garden or yard isn’t adversely affected by white vinegar and do some smaller test areas before you douse your yard. 

If you’re really at your wits end with your indoor cats unwanted behaviors, you can use a distilled vinegar and water solution indoors. Again, make sure to try test areas, as you don’t want to stain your furniture or surfaces. 

Dab the vinegar solution around the areas you’d like your kitty to avoid.

If they’re extra stubborn, you can put a small amount of the vinegar and water solution on a cotton ball and when you catch your feline friend engaging in the unwanted behavior, dab the cotton ball softly on their lips so they’ll associate the scent with that behavior. 

7. Coffee

Much like all the other pungent odors, coffee is another bitter smell that cats are not fans of. Though, after witnessing cats sleep 18 hours a day, it seems like they could do with a little caffeine boost.

Post-brewed coffee grounds are generally the most aromatic. Many people swear that putting cooled coffee grounds into their garden beds keeps kitties away.

Coffee grounds are rich with nutrients for gardens and soil, so it’s also an eco-friendly solution. 

However, one cat owner used the coffee ground method for years only to one day, as she was turning the soil with the coffee grounds, find her cat urinating into her garden bed. 

Like any of the above-mentioned natural options, you may have to try several methods, or change them up over time, to keep your cats behaving the way you want them to.

8. Skunks

Though Pepe Le Pew’s antics should be left in the past, there’s another reason his character motivations just don’t hold up—cats can’t stand the smell of skunks! 

They instinctively know to avoid skunks at all costs. Then again, maybe they know that because they watched too much Looney Tunes.

Short of making friends with your neighborhood skunk (don’t do that), there is a plant called Coleus Canina, also known as the “scaredy cat plant,” that gives off a distinctive skunk smell. 

If you can stand the smell yourself, try planting a few around your garden to ward off your own local Pepes’. This plant is not recommended for indoor usage no matter how much Febreeze is available.


While these are all great natural options to help cat owners figure out how to keep their cats from destroying their favorite items, it’s also good for cat owners to know that your cat will likely have a reaction to all of the above smells. 

Though these examples should provide a guidepost to helping you live a happier life with your felines, it is also helpful to know what smells might trigger your kitty into exhibiting less than ideal behaviors. The nose goes both ways! 

Here’s a quick rundown of common questions people have about smells cats hate…

Do cats hate the smell of vinegar?

Yes. In general, most cats will have a strong aversion to all vinegar smells. If you can take the smell yourself, this is a great option to start with.

Do cats hate the smell of peppermint?

Most cats do. However, some cats will eventually get used to this smell and potentially try to eat mint. This can make them very sick and is not a good option to start with if you don’t first confirm that the cat has an adverse reaction to mint.

Do cats hate the smell of cinnamon?

Yes, the majority of cats are not down with cinnamon. Cinnamon is another good non-toxic option to begin your cat behavior modification journey with.

Do cats hate coffee grounds?

Maybe. Though many people have said putting their used coffee grounds outside does deter cats, it’s not 100% effective on all kitties.

What is the most effective cat repellent?

Aside from all the scents we’ve outlined, there is another method which people from all over seem to find effective—water. Specifically, projected or sprayed water.

Having a spray bottle handy in the areas you know your cat is most likely to misbehave is a very effective solution. Give your cat a spritz or two while they are exhibiting the behavior and they almost always stop.

Done consistently, this can work wonders. For outdoor, uninvited cats, there are a few motion detected water sprinklers that get high ratings on many websites and cat groups as humane and inexpensive options to deter unwanted animals of all types.

What is the best natural cat repellent?

For your money, and the safety of our feline friends, vinegar, citrus, and cinnamon seem to be methods which people find most effective for indoor and outdoor cat control.

Hopefully, this information has given you some insight into the inner workings of your cats’ sensory experience. 

No one feels good when something smells overly pungent, especially our kitty companions.

Creating a pleasant aromatic experience in your house will benefit all of its occupants!