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Quina Baterna

Dirty litter boxes, citrus, cinnamon, and other common household scents that most cats stay away from


Despite their small size, cats have a larger nasal organ than humans. With this, cats have a sense of smell that is fourteen times stronger than that of the average person.

Using millions of olfactory receptors from around its head, it’s no wonder why they trust their nose so much. Serving as early warning systems, cats use their amazing sense of smell to keep themselves safe and out of trouble.

Unlike dogs, cats are not likely to use their expert senses for our benefit. However, that doesn’t mean that we also can’t use them to our advantage. But how exactly do we do that?

Why You Should Know Smells That Cats Hate

There are two important reasons to know what scents your cats dislike.

First, you can use scents that your cats dislike as repellents. While not entirely true for some cases, most cats will avoid scents that signal danger or poison. You can use this to teach them to avoid places that may harm them (or your wallet). From protecting your garden from feral cats, keeping your cats from ruining expensive furniture, or even eating Christmas decorations, repellants have several practical uses.

Second, scents they hate may be clues to their personal preferences. Like humans, some cats have a personal level of tolerance when it comes to hygiene. If the foul smell coming from unkempt litter boxes are not well managed, it may affect their overall happiness, health, and wellbeing.

So, now that you know the advantages, what scents do your cats actually hate?

Scents Your Cats Hate

Here are a few scents found in many homes that your cat would rather live without:

A Dirty Litter Box

Most indoor cats are very particular about the smell of their toilet, so you must make sure to maintain their litter box up to their standards. Regularly scoop out their poop and pee, clean the actual litter box, use deodorizers, and replace their litter box. Cats will refuse to use messy litter boxes and may refuse to urinate or defecate, leading to various health issues.


A common smell that most cats absolutely hate is the scent of Citrus. Lemons, oranges, clementines, and grapefruits have strong scents that are too overwhelming for most cats. A single peel from Citrus fruits is enough to keep cats at bay. While their extreme aversion to citrus scents makes it less likely that you have to worry about them accidentally ingesting it, citrus fruits are not that dangerous for cats in small amounts.


There’s a good reason why many animals, including cats, hate the smell of cinnamon. The strong, spicy aroma is too much even for some humans. Despite the ASPCA claiming that cinnamon is generally non-toxic to most animals, cats can still experience allergic reactions that may cause discomfort. Cinnamon can also be lethal when in its essential oil form.


Rosemary may be a go-to aromatic for many Western dishes, but they do more to repulse our furry friends than to entice them. While dainty looking and beautiful, Rosemary branches are also coarse and filled with spikes, making them uncomfortable for cats passing by. Often planted in herb gardens, rosemary is a great way to keep cats from defecating or urinating in between your flowers. In addition, rosemary is not toxic to cats.


A common scent used for homes, lavender is present in everything from room sprays, cleaning detergents, hand soaps, and more. You may use lavender plants or dried lavender flowers in various places around your home to keep your cats away from them. By themselves, lavender plants are not toxic to your cats unless eaten in large quantities. However, lavender can be lethal even in small dosages in the form of essential oils.

Mint & Menthol

Despite coming from the same family as catnip, both mint and menthol are not on our feline friend’s list of favorite things. While humans experience a pleasant cooling sensation from both mint and menthol, most cats find them pungent. Also, mint is toxic when ingested. With this, these scents should be used with caution when used as a natural deterrent.


While bananas are definitely edible for both cats and humans, their outer skin is not. When bananas ripen, they release ethyl acetate. Similar to acetone, the banana peel can smell terrible to your furry friend. If you can stand the smell, you can rub the banana peels on furniture to deter your curious cat.

Onions & Garlic

Despite being accessible ingredients present in many of the world’s cuisine, onions and garlic are terrible for cats. Their supermarket-bought form is of no real issue for our furry friends. However, once chopped up, they can assault a cat’s senses. Ingested by cats, these may cause upset stomachs, organ failure, and even death.

Soaps & Deodorant

While we might love the scent of freshly washed bowls, toys, and beds, our cats may have a different opinion. Cats mark their territory with scents, so after a wash, they might feel like it’s not theirs anymore. Additionally, they may not recognize you at first after you change the smell of your deodorant.

What To Remember When Using Scents to Deter Cats

When using scents to deter cats, it is good to be mindful of their safety too. You should always check and research before buying products for commercially bought cat-repellent sprays for safeness. While many naturally occurring scents such as fruits and plants will likely be safe in small dosages, using high concentrations in essential oils can lead to poisoning.

By systematically using scents that your cat hates in the right places, you can keep them from hurting themselves or damaging your home. Alternatively, you may also use scents they like and are safe for them in areas you would want them frequenting.

Scents are powerful tools that you can use to help train your cat. Knowing what smells make cats upset can help you manage the destruction at home and help remove unsightly scents that may affect your cat’s quality of life.

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