7 Smells that Cats Absolutely Hate with Passion!

Cats have a very stark sense of smell. 

They can pick smells that never come under the radar of human noses.

Cats use their sense of smell in the wilderness to mark boundaries, hunt, and protect themselves. 

Some cats are even said to have a stronger sense of smell than dogs. In other words, the sense of smell plays a predominant role in a cat’s survival process.

Now obviously, there are certain scents cats like, and there are certain smells they don’t.

This article will focus on smells cats hate with a passion.

In one of my previous articles, I taught you guys how to create a cat deterrent spray that is organic, healthy, and keeps the cat away from places you don’t want her to be.

Given how much you guys enjoyed that article, here is another one on what smells cats hate around the same general context.

Here are seven smells cats dislike and the scientific reason why they hate them.

1. Smell of Citrus Fruits

First on the list are citrus fruits. Most cat parents reading this might know this already.

If you have an orange or a lemon lying around and if you also happen to share your home with a cat, the orange and the cat will share a long-distance relationship.

The same goes for other citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and grapefruit.

While I have steered clear from using citrus fruit juice/oils from my recipe, many still use it in creating the deterrent spray.

ASPCA has regarded citrus fruits like lemon to be mildly toxic for cats. And for this reason, your cat is intelligent enough to maintain her distance from them.

2. Lavender and Eucalyptus

The human community has accepted Lavender and eucalyptus with open arms for their medicinal properties.

The cat community, however, doesn’t share the same sentiment.

Not just cats; lavender also helps deter many other animals, including deer and insects.

Planting lavender is a surefire way of keeping cats from messing with your plants.

Couple that with eucalyptus you will have a cat-free zone.

These plants are mildly toxic for cats, so it’s always a good idea not to bring them into the house. For the same reason, it is also advised not to use essential oils derived from the same plants.

3. Pepper and Curry

Spices are fun. But just for humans. Cats hate the smell of spices like pepper and curry with blind passion.

For this reason, many people use cayenne and pepper flakes to deter cats. I do not recommend using these spices as deterrents, though.

Peppers contain capsaicin which can produce toxic VOCs.

So, these spices may do an excellent job keeping cats at bay, but we do not want a curious cat ingesting them.

Opt for lighter and safe ingredients to create a deterrent spray.

But why bother? I have already created an article to create a safe deterrent spray here. 

4. Rosemary and Thyme

Rosemary and thyme are excellent cooking herbs. Almost all kitchens have it.

While their aroma is massively appreciated in cuisines, a cat’s sense perception doesn’t share the same enthusiasm.

You can add these herbs in pots and place them where you don’t want cats to be.

Rosemary and thyme are harmless to cats, but I still won’t recommend using them as essential oils in homes that house cats.

I have curated a list of safe essential oils for cats and other pets if you are big on essential oils.

5. White Distilled Vinegar

Once again, vinegar is a crucial ingredient in our kitchen. But inside a cat’s mind, it always wishes you would throw it away first thing in the morning.

Vinegar, mainly white distilled vinegar, is a very effective repellent against cats and insects. White distilled vinegar has a highly pungent smell that overpowers the scent of any other potential food sources in the area.

Vinegar is safe for cats and, therefore, is one of the most common ingredients in deterrents.

Interestingly, apple cider vinegar doesn’t repel cats. 

The aroma of apple cider vinegar isn’t as intense as the white distilled vinegar.

It is more on the sweet side and may even be responsible for attracting cats instead of repelling them. So, if you wish to repel cats from an area, white distilled vinegar is the way to achieve it.

The smell feels intense to us humans, as well, as I am sure you know, but it tones down as it dries up. However, cats can smell it even when it gets dried up; hence, it is an excellent repellent.

6. Coffee

Add coffee to the list of items that smell great to humans and attract nothing but despise from cats.

Freshly ground coffee is a great way to start the morning but only for humans.

Cats keep their distance from coffee not just because of its intense smell but also because caffeine is known to be toxic for cats.

I have covered in great detail why caffeine is toxic to cats in this article. 

As I said, more often than not, cats will know to keep their distance from caffeine derivatives, but you can never be too careful.

If your cat gets curious and ingests some by mistake, you must take her straight to the vet without delay.

For the reasons listed above, I do not recommend using powdered coffee as a deterrent.

7. Dirty Litter

Finally, a common ground. And an obvious one at that. 

A dirty, smelly litter box is unacceptable in both human and feline kingdoms. I have said in many articles throughout Kitty County that cats are neat freaks.

They are meticulous about where they eat and where they eliminate. 

Cats want a quiet, disturbance-free zone when eating and need a clean place free of smells to eliminate.

If you make her eat and drink in a place prone to disturbances and noises, she may develop a distaste for food.

You do not want that. 

A healthy, stress-free meal is essential for your cat to develop rightly. 

The same goes for the litter boxes too. Cats in the wild use urine to mark their boundaries; therefore, their noses are very sensitive to elimination smells.

A dirty litter throws her off like nothing else. 

Once I received a mail from one of my readers complaining their cats fight a lot. After some enquiring, I found out she was using one litter box for her two cats.

Guys, here is the rule. The number of litter boxes in a house should equal the number of cats plus one.

Cats are beings of routine and cleanliness and we owners have to respond for them as such.

If you don’t clean the litter box regularly and have a dedicated litter box for all your cats, you shouldn’t be surprised if they start eliminating in random places of your house.


So, we learned today that many smells that feel pleasant to us or taste well with our foods don’t necessarily go well with a cat’s sense of smell.

There may be many reasons one would want to know what smells cats hate.

However, I assume you wish to know what smells cats dislike to use as a deterrent.

Well, you can certainly do that, but there has to be a lot of attention that needs to go behind it.

There is a reason why cats dislike these smells. More often than not, cats stay from these smells because they harm their bodily system in some way.

Certain ingredients like white distilled vinegar are safe and act as an ideal deterrent; substances like coffee are toxic for cats.

Therefore, a lot of attention and caution are needed.

If you wish to create a deterrent, I have already built one using safe ingredients for cats.

If you have other questions about deterrents, cat behavior, and training, just shoot them in the comments below.

I hope you enjoyed the article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Take care of yourselves, and your cats and I will see you at the next one!

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A Humble Parent To Two Cats, One Dog, One Turtle And One Indian Ringneck. Have Been With And Around Pets And Animals For My Entire Life. Everything You Read Here Is An Expression Of my Love Towards Animals And The Innocence They Embody.

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