Which Smells or Herbs Will Repel Cats?

By Jane Meggitt

If you want to keep the local cats out of your garden, planting the right herbs may do the trick. Felines loathe the smell and might do their "business" elsewhere. Cats also dislike certain other odors. The downside: You might not care for them, either.

Citrus Repellents

Cats don't like the scent of citrus. Keep cats away by throwing your orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime rinds into the garden. If you or family members consume citrus fruits daily, put fresh peels out every day and throw the prior day's detritus into the compost bin. That way, you always have current cat repellent.

Herbal and Plant Deterrents

Quite a few herbs repel cats while also making a lovely addition to the garden.

  • Lemon balm: Cats hate it, but bees love it, so this herb attracts useful pollinators. You can make a tea with the leaves to alleviate cold symptoms.
  • Rosemary: A wonderful herb for cooking, doing double duty as a cat deterrent.
  • Lavender: People love the scent, cats avoid it.
  • Rue: Felines especially dislike this scent. While the plant has certain medicinal properties, it's also dangerous when ingested.
  • Coleus canina: Marketed under the name "Scaredy Cat," this annual sports blue flowers. It's most effective when planted as a hedge around any area you wish to remain cat-free. Cats can't stand the smell and avoid going near it. For the most part, people don't notice the odor. But if you rub the leaves, you'll detect a strong urine-like smell.

Plant cat-repellent herbs around your garden's border, so cats don't stray into the flowers or vegetables to use the facilities. You can also place them in planters, stationed at the edges of the garden.

Essential Oils

If you don't want to plant particular herbs or they're not suitable for your garden, try daubing some essential oils around the borders to repel cats. Oils cats disdain include:

  • lavender
  • eucalyptus
  • citronella
  • lemongrass
  • and any citrus oils.

Smells Cats Hate

Many of these foul-smelling-to-felines items are free or very cheap, so there's no harm in trying them to see if they're effective. These include vinegar -- and human hair. Supposedly, felines don't like the smell of the latter. You might disagree if you have cat who likes to lick your head, but that's the theory. When cleaning your hairbrushes, scatter the old hair around the garden.