page title icon What Smells Do Cats Hate the Most?

by Linda Mathews Last Updated September 18, 2021

Although cats have large movable ears and long whiskers, the main sense organ for them is their nose. The cat’s world is the world of smells and aromas.

Curious felines often rely more on their sense of smell than on what they can actually see or touch as they explore their environment. A blind and deaf cat easily gets along with people and can live a full life even in the forest, but a cat that has lost his sense of smell is doomed to a miserable existence or even death.

Are there smells cats insanely love and those that put them off? Definitely, yes. If you want to be a conscious pet parent, then knowing what smells ward off cats is vital. We invite you to delve into the issue of what smells cats hate and why.

Understanding a Cat’s Sense of Smell

Understanding a Cat’s Sense of Smell

Cats’ sense of smell helps cats navigate in space, gives a more complete picture of the world, helps to identify and avoid danger. Do cats have a good sense of smell? Certainly, a cat’s sense of smell surpasses a human sense – in fact, cats have an estimated 45 to 200 million odor-sensitive cells in their noses, whereas humans only have 5 million odor-sensitive cells.

Cats can smell not only with their nose but also with an additional organ called the Jacobson organ. This organ is located on the upper surface of the mouth. On top of that, kittens are born with a specific database of smells, so newly born kittens are already able to unmistakably find their mother’s nipple using their sense of smell.

A sense of smell helps cats instantly analyze their surroundings. Sometimes, timely information about a dangerous object with an unpleasant odor can be life-saving. Or, conversely, a pleasant smell for the cat can help to find food promptly.

In addition, smells help cats communicate with other cats. In this case, the exchange of information occurs through urine marks, as well as the secretion of glands located on the face, in the tail area, and on the pads of the paws. Felines thus mark the boundaries of their territory.

There are smells that cats like (for example, the scent of catnip), and there are those that scare them away (the smell of citrus and vinegar). Below, we’ll take a closer look at the scents that deter cats.

Surprising and Not-so-Surprising Smells Cats Hate

What smells do cats hate? Cats dislike many odors, and cats and humans do not have the same tastes. We can hardly imagine a person who loves the smell of offal, while cats adore it. At the same time, the smell of your favorite condiment or perfume may not be acceptable to your furry friend.

To make your pet’s life comfortable, healthy, and happy, you must be aware of the odors that cats don’t like and try not to use them so as not to create discomfort for your pet or even a health threat.

Below, we take a look at the most unpleasant odors for cats and explain why they prefer to stay away from them.

Citrus: orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit

Citrus: orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit

The smell of citrus fruits is unpleasant for cats due to the presence of essential oils, which quickly spread through the air. The citrus-scented product can be used to educate your pet and prevent inappropriate behavior.

For example, you can apply essential oil to areas that your cat needs to stay away from. However, do not forget that there are exceptions to any rule, and some cats may be indifferent to the smell of citrus fruits, or vice versa – to show interest.

This may be due to a less sensitive sense of smell (usually higher in female cats), problems with smell, or the presence of infectious diseases that cause breathing problems.

Lavender and Geranium

One of the most unpleasant odors for a cat is lavender, so this flower can be used as a deterrent. It is necessary to use dried lavender bouquets, as they have a sharper smell and retain it longer.

Geranium can be grown in pots and placed, for example, on windowsills, its smell will scare cats away. However, it should be used with caution as it is toxic to cats.

Various plants and herbs

Do cats like peppermint and rosemary? No way! Except for these herbs, there are other herbs and plants cats hate: belladonna, scented tobacco, thyme, and rue.

Belladonna and tobacco contain toxins that cause nausea and vomiting. This effect is caused by the high content of alkaloids, glycosides, and organic acids, which are extremely dangerous for cats.

Banana and Mustard

Banana and mustard

Do you know that cats can actually eat mustard and banana? But they won’t do that because they really hate these smells! Why do cats hate bananas? The reason is that certain toxic chemicals come from the banana’s outer skin.

Mint, wintergreen, and menthol

Cats and menthol and cats and mint are an incompatible combination. These odors are very pungent and unpleasant. Even a small concentration of one of these odors will send your cat running. As for the wintergreen, it is not only unpleasant but also dangerous for the health of cats, since it is toxic.



The smell of pine is another absolute “No” for your furry friends, so if you choose litter with a strong pine scent, your cat may refuse to use the litter box. Choose a neutral scent instead.

As for the pine essential oil, it can be used if you want to discourage your cat from visiting certain areas in the house.

Dirty litter box

Cats are finicky creatures, which means they hate using a dirty litter box. If the cat’s litter box is dirty at the time he needs it, he can use any other part of the house. Also, some cats can be extremely territorial, so the smell of another cat’s feces can scare them away.

Hot peppers

Hot peppers

In general, cats do not like spicy odors because they associate them with potential toxicity. Therefore, if you want to ward cats off, then hot peppers are what you need.

Ground coffee

Many people love the noble smell of freshly brewed coffee, but our dear friends do not like this smell. Besides, it is believed that the higher the quality of the coffee, the more the cat dislikes it.

Many household cleaners

Today, there are many cleaning products with different formulations and different flavors. Many of them are pleasant enough for humans, but for cats, these odors are irritating or even toxic.

Cleaning products often contain a variety of chemicals that can be unpleasant and dangerous for cats. Therefore, if you decide to clean cat accessories (their litter box or bowls), under no circumstances use cleaning products, as the cat will identify a new smell and may refuse to use these items.

Alternatively, you can use other cleaning agents such as baking soda.

Other cats

Other cats

Cats don’t like the smells of other cats they don’t know. Ambient odors help cats better understand their surroundings, so they can perceive the smell of another cat as a danger. Also, the same applies to cats that are too territorial.

Frequently Asked Questions

What smell do cats hate the most?

Cats dislike the smell of rue, lavender, mustard, pennyroyal, and lemon thyme.

Do cats hate the smell of vinegar?

Cats dislike vinegar because of its smell. Therefore, it can be used to stop an animal from spoiling furniture or entering unwanted areas in a room.

To do this, the vinegar must be diluted with water and applied to furniture or any other place. However, vinegar should be used with care as it can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested, and undiluted vinegar can negatively affect the kitten’s skin.

Do cats hate perfume?

Perfume, cologne, eau de toilette for women and men are the smells that repel cats indoors. They also dislike it when this smell is too strong.

Do cats hate the smell of eucalyptus?

Eucalyptus has a repellent effect on many animals, including cats. Since the pet has a strong sense of smell, the smell of eucalyptus is too harsh and scares him away. If the cat marked various places in the house, then an aqueous solution based on eucalyptus oil can scare him away. A few drops of oil are mixed with water and sprayed on the marked area.

What essential oils do cats hate the smell of?

All essential oils have a pungent smell, but cats especially dislike lavender, rosemary, and lemongrass. These essential oils can be used to deter cats from peeing.

Do cats hate the smell of mothballs?

Yes, cats just hate this smell. The mothballs act as a pesticide and deodorant, keeping mold odor at bay. Due to their chemical composition, mothballs are very dangerous for humans and animals.

What is a natural cat deterrent?

Natural cat repellents serve either to scare away pets or to prevent the territory from being marked. What smells deter cats from peeing? There are various options, but we recommend using orange/lemon zest or citrus essential oils.


This list of odors that cats dislike is not exhaustive. In fact, every pet is unique and has his preferences, and some cats simply adore citrus fruits, which contradicts the popular claim that all cats do not like the citrus smell.

However, remember that by knowing the basic scents that are unpleasant for cats, you can protect them from discomfort, or vice versa – use them to correct your cat’s behavior.