How to Keep Cats Off Cars

Many people consider their pets to be their babies, but some people feel just as strongly about their cars. Even if you don't feel that strongly about your car, you probably still don't want your paint to get scratched, especially if it could open up the underlying metal to water damage and eventual rust. Unfortunately, cats can easily scratch the paint on cars without even trying, so if your own absolutely adorable feline loves relaxing under the sun on the hood of your car, you should try to stop her for the sake of your vehicle.

Cat on the car
Cats can easily scratch cars.
credit: NevaF/iStock/GettyImages

Preventing animal scratches on a car

Perhaps the easiest way to stop animal scratches on your car is to keep the cat off the car itself while still allowing him to relax on the vehicle. Rather than training or deterring a cat from doing what it instinctively wants to do, which is relax on the car, just use a car cover.

Generic car covers can be pretty inexpensive, and they will prevent your cat from leaving scratches on the roof of the car. Plus, a car cover can keep your car free of debris, dirt, bird poop, tree sap, and even damage from the sun.

Try cat repellents

Cats are like many other animals in that they try to avoid certain odors they find bothersome. You can make your own cat repellent or buy it for a reasonable price. They come in powders, sprays, oils, and more. Always be sure to buy repellents that are safe for cats and make sure you follow the instructions because you don't want to get any critters or humans sick.

Alternatively, you can make your own cat repellent with essential oils that cats don't like. Lavender, rosemary, peppermint, garlic, and orange are said to be particularly effective on cats. Just fill a squirt bottle with water and a dozen or so drops of these essential oils and then mix and spray on and around your car. You can even mix a few essential oils to create a blend with maximum offensiveness to cat noses. Reapply once a week or so, especially if it rains.

Some websites will suggest using mothballs to repel cats, as they really do not like the scent. However, while most cats avoid mothballs at all costs, some may not be as bothered by it, and mothballs can be toxic to cats. As a result, you should avoid turning to mothballs to protect your car.

Use your garage

Another super-easy solution is to simply put your car in the garage. While this solution won't work for everyone, as many people don't have garages, and those who do often have them packed full of other stuff (or other cars), if you have a garage and can find space for your car, this is an easy way to keep cats away. Even if you have a cat, you can just keep your cat out of the garage, and your car will stay safe.

Turn up the heat

If you've tried essential oils or even commercial cat repellers, and they don't work, you can always consider something a little more spicy. Cats do not like chili peppers, and sprinkling cayenne pepper around your car is enough to keep most cats away. When cats get even a little on their nose, they're likely to go away and never come back. If the problem is particularly bad, you can even sprinkle it on your car, but if you're particularly sensitive to peppers yourself, this might be a solution you'd be best off avoiding.

With this method, though, it's important to remember that rain and wind can wash away your cat repeller, so you'll need to reapply it every few nights, at least until the cats in your neighborhood have sworn off your vehicle.

Ultrasonic animal alarms

Don't worry—these pet-repelling alarm systems won't wake you up in the middle of the night when they go off. That's because they use ultrasonic frequencies that are too high pitched for the human ear to pick up, even though cats, dogs, and other critters can.

Some can even be set to ward of specific critters so you can chase away cats but not dogs if you so desire. When looking for an ultrasonic animal repeller, always look for one that has good reviews because if you can't hear the sounds go off yourself, it can be hard to tell if it's working.

Motion-controlled sprinkler systems

You don't have to know anything about cats to know they don't like water. While you can't exactly stand beside your car and spray your hose at cats whenever they come near your car, you can schedule your sprinklers to go off at a certain time if you notice that a cat or cats seem to get on your car at the same time every day.

If the cats sleeping on your car don't seem to be on a schedule, though, you can always try a motion-operated sprinkler. These devices are specifically designed to discourage cats, but you might prefer to set them around your car so you can chase off cats before they get on your car rather than wait until they are already on your car because they may dig their claws into the paint when they get scared by the water. Also, be sure to keep your car windows up when you try this solution.

Motion-activated lights

Not all cats are so easily spooked, but feral cats and particularly skittish kitties may be warded off by nothing more than a motion-activated light. Best of all, this is something useful to have set up on your driveway even if cats aren't sleeping on your car.

Just be sure to aim the sensor and the light right at your car and then see if the cat runs off when the light comes on or completely ignores it and continues to relax on your vehicle. Of course, this technique is entirely useless if cats are sleeping on your car during the daytime.

Train your cat

If the cat in question isn't yours, you can try talking to the owner if you know who owns the cat, but don't hold your breath for him to do something about it. On the other hand, if the cat is yours, you can try training her. Cats might not be the easiest animals to train, but it is possible to do with the right combination of positive and negative reinforcement.

Water spray bottles can be used as negative reinforcement to discourage the cat from getting on the car, while treats and praise can help tell your cat that she did something right by walking around your car rather than jumping on it.

The best thing about training your cat to not jump on cars rather than just discouraging her from jumping on cars is that she will hopefully avoid getting on anyone else's car, which could result in her scratching the paint or, even worse, getting hurt.