7 Essential Oils That Deter & Repel Cats (They Hate Them)

An angry cat that smelled essential oils it hates

There are a number of essential oils you can use to deter and repel cats who wander onto your property. However, some work far better than others!

This list of essential oils that cats hate will help you pick which ones are right for you.

Essential Oils To Deter Cats

Essential oils are a fantastic, all-natural cat repellent to keep these animals away from places you don’t want them to go. Whether it’s your outdoor garden or deck, these oils create an effective scent barrier that creates a no-go zone for felines. Cats have approximately 200 million odor sensors, making their sense of smell highly acute.

While essential oils smell wonderful to us humans, they wreak havoc on a cat’s senses (which means they hate most of them).

But what essential oils have the most impact on cats? Here are some of the best oils you can use to deter and repel cats safely as well as efficiently.

1. Citronella

Citronella is a common essential oil utilized in outdoor products. You’ve likely seen it in insect-repelling candles, torch fuels, and even topical bug spray. For most people, citronella is an enjoyable scent that gives off a clean-smelling vibe. But for cats, it’s an essential oil that they hate!

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Cats hate any citrus scent. There’s something about citrus fruits that drives cats mad.

Contrary to what some might think, citronella doesn’t come from fruit at all. It actually comes from the leaves of the lemongrass plant. While it doesn’t produce citrus fruit, it does have a distinct, lemony flavor.

Lemongrass is a favorite in Asian cuisine because it produces a subtle flavor that’s not overbearingly sour like a traditional lemon. The flavor comes from the essential oils, purchased separately as citronella oil.

Add a few drops of the essential oil to a water-filled spray bottle, and it’ll spread the citrus scent to keep cats away. 

2. Garlic

Garlic is another flavor and scent you’ll see in the kitchen. In fact, you might have a bottle of garlic-infused oil in your pantry right now!

Like citronella, garlic essential oil is something that cats absolutely hate. For most folks, garlic cloves provide a fantastic flavor and create an irresistible aroma. But once again, the smell is too overbearing for cats to be around.

There are many ways to use garlic oil. While not as readily available as sweet-smelling oils, garlic essential oil is available to buy. You can use it the same way you would any other oil product.

Alternatively, you can try using pure garlic. Some gardeners will plant garlic cloves to create a scent barrier to deter cats. Others will simply toss cloves on the soil.

Those methods work well, but using a few drops of essential oil is much cleaner and easier to apply.

3. Peppermint

Peppermint is a potentially harmful essential oil to cats. It can be dangerous if the cat ingests it. As a result, you must use this oil carefully and avoid dispersing too much of it without proper dilution.

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As you can imagine, this is an essential oil that cats hate. It produces a strong odor that deters and repels cats when they come across it. That’s why cats often avoid mint plants or household aromas that might have that distinct menthol sting.

4. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus has a distinct smell. If you know what it is, you can instantly identify it. That said, it has many similar properties to peppermint.

This essential oil has a signature menthol-like aroma that’s strong enough to clear your sinuses. It feels cool in the nostrils and can be overwhelming even to humans. Imagine how cats respond to it!

Eucalyptus essential oil comes from a tree that’s native to Australia. It’s a widely available oil often utilized in health and beauty products.

Like other essential oils on this list, there are many ways to take advantage of it as a cat deterrent. You can add a few drops to a water bottle and spray it around your garden. Alternatively, many folks like to soak old cotton rags in the oil and set it in areas they don’t want cats to enter.

Expert Tip: The soaking method can provide a lasting aroma. However, it does use up a significant amount of oil that can be dangerous to cats.

5. Citrus

As we mentioned earlier, cats hate any essential oil that remotely resembles citrus. That’s why citronella oil is so effective. But you don’t have to go with the lemongrass-based aroma. You can use the real deal!

Citrus essential oil typically comes from the rinds of citrus fruit. It can be lemon, lime, orange, and more. Give any fresh citrus a good squeeze, and you’ll see some of the oils spray from the skin.

This essential oil does a fantastic job of keeping cats away. It’s a bitter smell that felines will do anything to avoid. Use that to your advantage, and repelling cats from your garden is a breeze.

6. Cinnamon

Here’s an interesting essential oil that many people don’t consider. Cinnamon is a wonderful season spice that often conjures up the warm feelings of the holiday. The spice we all know and love comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree.

It’s aromatic and produces an instantly recognizable smell. You guessed it: Cats hate the smell! Cinnamon is a scent that could irritate a feline’s nose.

If it gets into their nostrils, it can be a wildly uncomfortable experience. Most cats will head in another direction when they get a whiff of any cinnamon in the air.

Cinnamon essential oil isn’t as widely available as some of the others on this list. Furthermore, its source isn’t always suitable. Some oils come from the leaves instead of the bark. While the leaves can have some distinct aroma, the bark is what you want.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily need the oils to repel cats. You can also use fresh ground cinnamon. Sprinkle it wherever you don’t want cats to go. That should be enough to keep them out.

The only issue is that you’ll need to make regular applications. If you want long-lasting repelling power, you’ll need the essential oil.

7. Lavender

The essential oil from this gorgeous purple plant does wonders to deter and keep cats away. Lavender has an unmistakable scent. You either love it, or you hate it!

The smell is a cross between signature florals and a hint of freshness. Some say it’s more bitter, and cats will likely agree with those people! Felines can’t stand the smell of lavender. Like other essential oils, it’s too overwhelming.

Lavender oil is one of the most accessible essential oils. It’s very popular, and many companies use it in cosmetics, cleaners, detergents, and more. If you want to repel cats, it’s best to use the essential oil.

However, you’ll need to be careful. Lavender oil can harm cats. We’ll get into that in a second, but going overboard with lavender can negatively impact a cat’s health. As a result, you’ll have to be extra careful if you plan on using this essential oil to repel cats.

Is It Safe To Use Essential Oils To Repel Cats?

For the most part, it’s safe to use essential oils on cats. However, there are some exceptions.

Some essential oils can cause major health problems if ingested. Some of the worst offenders are citrus oil, clove oil, eucalyptus oil, and peppermint oil. 

If ingested, cats can experience adverse reactions. Not only will it make them vomit and experience severe stomach pains, but some cats might die due to the stress on their liver and kidneys. Felines don’t have the means to metabolize these essential oils, so it wreaks havoc on the filtering organs.

They’re toxic to felines, and these mammals don’t have the means to rid their bodies of them. 

Some oils don’t even require ingestion to cause problems. High concentrations of diffused lavender oil in the air can seep into a cat’s skin. The same thing happens with humans, but we have the means to metabolize the oil and not experience any ill effects.

That’s not the case for cats. Lavender oil eventually makes its way to the liver and may cause it to shut down entirely!

You can obviously still use these essential oils, but you have to be careful about going overboard. Don’t give cats any chance to swallow some accidentally, and avoid putting high concentrations in one place. Spread the oils around, and it’ll get the job done without posing a significant health risk.


There are plenty of essential oils that cats hate, but the list above should be your starting point. If you want to repel and deter these animals, you’ll want to use the best!

Let us know if you have any other essential oils that you’re thinking about using. We’re always happy to give you some feedback!

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