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What Essential Oils Do Cats Hate? 13 Top Options

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By Nicole Cosgrove


If you’re having a problem with cats raiding your garden or swarming your yard, there are great essential oil solutions out there to keep them away. To be clear, this won’t hurt the cats, but it will get them off your property so they can live their lives somewhere else.

Here, we highlighted 13 different essential oil options that you can use. Cats can’t stand the smell of these essential oils, so they’ll choose to leave if any of this stuff is around.

The Top 13 Essential Oils Cats Hate

1. Lemon

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One scent that cats can’t stand is lemon. It’s great if you’re trying to keep cats off your property entirely, but if you’re simply trying to get them away from a certain object, we recommend going with a milder scent.

Lemon can be slightly toxic to cats, so go with an essential oil that simply has a lemon scent. Since they don’t like the smell, they’ll stay away even if there’s not any actual lemon around.

2. Grapefruit

Can Dogs Eat Grapefruit
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Another citrus fruit that cats don’t like is grapefruit. You can use grapefruit essential oil to keep cats away, but you can also put grapefruit rinds in potted plants if you don’t want cats around them.

A perk of adding rinds to the soil around a potted plant is that these make a natural fertilizer that can even help the plant grow better!

3. Orange

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Cats don’t like the smell of oranges, making them an effective deterrent. But like most citrus fruits, cats are mildly allergic to oranges, so you should either use essential oils or put the peels in a bag so the cat can’t ingest them if they do get too close. That said, since cats don’t like oranges’ scent, they tend not to eat them even if they do get the opportunity.

4. Citrus

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While lemons, grapefruits, and oranges tend to be our favorite choices for deterring cats, just about any citrus fruit will do the trick, including tangerines and limes.

While most people like the scent of citrus, cats can’t stand it. This means you get to keep cats away and smell a pleasant aroma, which is a real win-win.

5. Citronella

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The great thing about citronella is that you’re not just keeping cats away. Insects like mosquitoes can’t handle citronella either, so you’re getting both a cat and an insect repellent when you use a citronella-scented essential oil.

Simply spray a citronella water mixture onto various surfaces, and you should notice cats hanging around less. You won’t have to deal with insect bites when you’re relaxing in your yard.

6. Eucalyptus

eucalyptus essential oils in glass bottle
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Eucalyptus has an extremely strong scent that cats can’t stand. It’s similar to menthol, and you soak rags or other materials in a eucalyptus mixture and leave them around an area where you don’t want cats.

Just keep in mind that this is a strong-smelling mixture, so we recommend using something else to keep cats away from certain areas inside your home. But if you’re trying to keep outdoor cats away from your garden or property, it’s a great choice.

7. Peppermint

peppermint plant
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While peppermint gives most of us holiday vibes, cats don’t get the same cozy feelings. It doesn’t matter what variety of mint you go with either, as cats can’t stand the stuff.

You can put mint in pots and grow it outside to help keep cats away, but if you don’t want to deal with gardening, peppermint essential oils work just as well.

8. Garlic

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Cats aren’t vampires, but they don’t like the smell of garlic. However, if you’re thinking about putting out fresh garlic, keep in mind that it’s toxic to cats, so you should either bag it up or use an essential oil instead.

The advantage of using garlic essential oil is that it gives off a stronger smell than actual garlic, and you don’t have to worry about cats eating it.

9. Lemongrass

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Lemongrass isn’t a foolproof solution to keep all cats away, but it will prevent a few of them from coming around. The main problem with using lemongrass as a deterrent is that while it will keep some cats away, it’ll actually attract others.

If you want to use a lemongrass essential oil to deter cats, we recommend using it in conjunction with another option, like peppermint or thyme.

10. Rosemary

rosemary herbs in garden
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If you’re looking to use a natural plant to keep cats away, consider rosemary. It’s completely non-toxic to cats, but they can’t stand the smell, so they’ll stay away.

If you want to test the effectiveness of rosemary on the cats in your area, try rosemary essential oil first. If it works, you can either put out a few rosemary plants or keep using the essential oil mixture.

11. Thyme

heap of dry thyme in wooden spoon and in bowl on wooden background
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While thyme can be a great choice to help deter cats, it’s not quite as effective as other herbs, such as rosemary. The scent of thyme simply isn’t strong enough to make an extremely effective deterrent.

While the essential oil version can have a slightly stronger smell to help keep cats away, we recommend pairing this essential oil with something else for a more effective solution.

12. Pine

Cat Fir Christmas Pine Tree
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While pine is a common remedy to help keep cats away, we don’t find it to be the most effective choice. As most cat owners know, many cats have no problem messing with pine Christmas trees when they come into the house.

If a cat willingly climbs into a pine tree to take a nap, a pine essential oil might not be the deterrent that you want.

13. Cinnamon

cinnamon sticks
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While cinnamon is a favorite smell for people, cats don’t like it. But like many other products that help deter cats, cinnamon can be toxic for them. Even worse, if you use cinnamon powder, it can end up in their fur, which can lead to easy ingestion.

This is why we recommend using essential oils with a cinnamon scent instead. It’ll keep cats away from your garden or porch, and you don’t have to worry about hurting the cats in the process.

A Note on Lavender Oil

While many people choose to grow lavender around their homes to help keep cats away, do not use lavender essential oils around your home or yard. When lavender essential oil breaks down, it forms small droplets that can absorb into a cat’s skin.

Cats lack the necessary enzymes to break down lavender oil, so it’s extremely toxic to them. If you have cats in your home, we recommend avoiding lavender oil entirely.


Now that you know what essential oils cats can’t stand, all that’s left is for you to mix up your own solutions and spray them around. But always mix the solutions first, as high concentrations of any essential oil can be toxic to cats. Aim for about 20 parts water for each drop of essential oil to dilute enough to make it completely safe around cats.

Featured Image Credit: Devanath, Pixabay

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