What Are the Scents Cats Hate?

You've got an oasis in your yard, soft dirt in your flower beds, and nice shady spots. You love it. And, unfortunately, the neighborhood cats love it, too. There's a good chance that cats are using your delightful flower bed as a natural litter box.

Fluffy white cat sitting on a wall outdoors and smelling the surrounding leaves and foliage
There are some smells cats don't like.
credit: coldsnowstorm/iStock/GettyImages

There are some smells cats don't like that could be added to your garden or around and inside your home if you have cats that you are trying to repel. Other reasons you might want to know the smells cats don't like are that you want to avoid using scents that might make your own cat uncomfortable.

Cats have powerful noses

There are quite a few scents that cats don't like. Cats are natural hunters, and as such have a powerful sense of smell. A 2017 study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science revealed that cats have a more powerful sense of smell than dogs do. Search and rescue cats, anyone?

News.com, which summarized the study, said that mammals have three different kinds of scent receptor proteins in their noses. One of them, V1R, is believed to control a mammal's ability to separate one scent from another. Dogs have nine variants of the V1R protein while humans have a mere two. Cats, remarkably, have 30 scent receptor proteins in their noses.

Smells cats don't like

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, there are several plants that have scents that deter cats. Cats dislike strong citrus smells. This means fruit peels from lemon, lime, or grapefruit can be placed near your garden areas and that might be enough.

Another option for smells cats don't like, if you don't have a lot of citrus available, is to get some citrus essential oil and place it with some water in a spray bottle. Spraying this near areas where cats visit could help. Cats also do not like the scent of human hair, so one suggestion is to place the hair that collects in your hairbrush in strategic areas.

Natural cat repellent plants

Prickly plants: Planting prickly plants such as blackberry, roses, holly, or hawthorne will likely deter not just cats but also dogs, foxes, and even human intruders according to Cats Away. Placing even the trimmings of prickly plants in your garden area can also work as a barrier to entry.

Coleus Canina: Commonly known as Scaredy Cat plant, coleus canina smells bad enough that cats avoid it. Chances are you won't be bothered by the smell unless you crush the leaves or brush by the plant and release the scent. But perhaps the cats in your life will walk right past your garden to avoid it.

Rue: Also known as Ruta Graveolens, rue has a strong odor that is said to be one of the smells cats can't stand.

In addition to this list of plants, the David Suzuki Foundation indicates that cats dislike the smell of lavender, pennyroyal, and lemon thyme. Planting these herbs in your beds or as borders, may keep cats away.

Treat the area

Well Living Ideas provides a list of 11 home remedies for cat odor removal. In addition to washing the area, such as planters, for example, with soap and water, they recommend commercial odor removers such as Nature's Miracle Just for Cats Urine Destroyer Intense Urine Stain & Odor Remover, claiming it's super-effective for removing the smell of cat urine.

And if you're having trouble finding the affected areas, they suggest using an ultraviolet light, which is commonly called a black light, to detect the areas where urine has been deposited.