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Do Coffee Grounds Keep Cats Away? Are They the Best Choice?

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

coffee grounds

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats may be precious companions inside the house, but they can be destructive little things when let outside. Not only can your outdoor cats destroy gardens, but they can become quite ill or even die if exposed to certain types of plants and flowers. So what is a cat-loving gardener to do to keep their cats away from their beloved plants?

Some green thumbs swear by sprinkling coffee grounds in and around the garden, but is it a safe option? It can be but there may be better and safer deterrents. Keep reading to learn more.



Can Coffee Grounds Deter Cats?

Coffee grounds can deter cats. They don’t like strong smells, so the scent of coffee may be enough to keep your kitties far away from your garden.

Using coffee grounds has the added benefit of providing nitrogen to your plants. The grounds release nitrogen into the soil as they break down, so don’t expect results overnight. Using grounds as a fertilizer adds organic material to your garden’s soil, eventually improving drainage, aeration, and water retention. They can also help microorganisms your plants need thrive and may even attract earthworms.

black spoon scooping coffee grounds
Image Credit: yngveleyn, Pixabay

Are Coffee Grounds Safe to Use With Cats?

Coffee beans, grounds, and brewed coffee contain caffeine which all coffee lovers know is a stimulant drug. Though it is generally safe for human consumption, a moderate amount of caffeine can cause serious side effects and even death in cats. While one or two licks are unlikely to cause significant harm, the Pet Poison Helpline suggests that ingestion can cause toxicity.

Symptoms of caffeine toxicity include:
  • Hyperactivity
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Raised heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Tremors

In severe cases of toxicity, your cat may collapse and even die.

How to Use Coffee Grounds as a Deterrent

Using coffee grounds as a deterrent is relatively easy. All you need to do is scatter the grounds around the plant beds you’d prefer your cat not use as a litter box. You can then scratch the surface of your soil so the grounds will mix with the top inch.

Using used coffee grounds versus fresh ones you can buy from the grocery store is recommended. Fresh grounds are more acidic and can negatively affect your garden and soil pH. Used grounds will have a more balanced pH level, which will help most plants as they tend to thrive in a neutral range.

Other Deterrent Options

If you’re not comfortable using coffee grounds as a deterrent or if you’re worried about your kitty ingesting the grounds and falling ill, there are plenty of other deterrent options.

coffee grounds
Image By: Martin Hetto, Pixabay


You already learned that cats hate strong smells, so use that to your advantage. Other scents most cats hate include:

  • Rosemary
  • Lemon balm
  • Lemon thyme

Try planting a few of these strongly scented plants in your garden to see if it will keep your cats away.

Cats also hate the smell of citrus, so toss your old orange peels into the garden soil.


Cats enter gardens in the first place because they like the feeling of soft and loose soil. Your kitty may be going into your garden because it wants to use it as a litter box. If you want to discourage this behavior, make the soil feel less appealing. Cover the area in twigs or push pine cones into the dirt around your plants. You can also try using stone mulch or eggshells to make the soil less inviting.


DIY cat repellent is another excellent option to keep the cat far away from your garden. You can find many recipes online, but here are two of our favorites.

Vinegar-Based Repellent
  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 1 part liquid hand soap
  • 1 part water

Pour your vinegar and water into a spray bottle and swish the contents together to mix. Add the liquid hand soap and mix well. Spray this mixture on the areas of your garden you want to keep your cat from entering.

Citrus-Based Repellent
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of citrus peels (orange, lemon, lime)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 squirt of scented dish soap

Heat the water over the stove until it comes to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and toss in the citrus peelings of your choice. Simmer for 20 minutes. Let the mixture cool before straining the peels and transferring the liquid into a spray bottle. Add two teaspoons of lemon juice and a squirt of your dish soap. Shake vigorously until combined, and spray it near your garden beds to act as a chemical perimeter around your garden.


Final Thoughts

While coffee grounds are an okay choice as a cat repellent for your garden, especially since they can also benefit your garden, there may be better and safer options. If you know that your cat isn’t too curious and won’t try licking the grounds, you can probably use them without worrying too much. On the other hand, if your kitty is a little naughty and unafraid, you might wish to steer clear of any caffeine-based deterrents.

Featured Image Credit: martin_hetto, Pixabay

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