What Smells Do Cats Hate?

Cat sniffing, cat olfactory system, WHat do cats hate the smell of?

Certain odors are just offensive to our senses, so why would our shorthair cats, or cats in general for that matter, not have similar objections? In this post we will explore the question, what smells do cats hate, so you can be ready with the air freshener (but not a citrus smelling one) when these kitty nose-raiders are in the house.

The Cat’s Nose

Before we discover what makes your shorthair cat turn his nose away in disgust, let’s find out a bit more about his olfactory system – how cats smell odors.

Scottish fold cat, cat sniffing, cat smelling food

Your cat’s nasal cavity contains around 200 million scent receptors which are useful for detecting prey or for our lazy home-dwellers when a fresh chunk of tuna has been plopped into their dish.

The feline’s scene of smell is also vital to its appetite, so even though you may regard that expensive “bistro entree” you so lovingly chose because it looked delicious on the package, it’s the aroma of the food that will entice Kitty cat to give it a lick.

Another interesting feature of the cat’s nose is its ability to “smell-taste.” Scientifically, this is called the “Flehmen Response” and is when your cat opens its mouth to suck in an odor more deeply. This is made possible by two fluid-filled sacs in the roof of your feline’s mouth called the Jacobson’s organs. These unique little structures are connected directly to your cat’s nasal cavity and make it possible to get a “deeper read” on a smell, typically sex pheromones (or even catnip).

What Smells Do Cats Hate?

With such a powerful sniffer, it’s no wonder there are certain smells cats hate. Check them out!

Cats Hate the Smell of Citrus

Cat hate the smell of citrus, can cats eat citrus, cat olfactory system

Cats are known to dislike the smell of citrus. These fruits include grapefruit, lemons, limes, and oranges. Even though it’s not toxic for cats to consume the flesh of these fruits (if they so desired) the skins are toxic and can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and skin issues. Some gardeners recommend using the peels of citrus fruits sprinkled around shrubs and flowers to keep neighboring felines from using those prized plants as a litter box. 

Cats Hate the Smell of Some Plants 

Geraniums, lavender, and eucalyptus plants are extremely toxic to cats if ingested, so perhaps that is why they have such an aversion to their aromas.

See our article titled Which plants are poisonous to cats?

If your cat does (for some reason) decide to nibble on any of these plants, symptoms include vomiting, excessive drooling, depression, anorexia, and skin issues. Seek veterinary assistance ASAP. 

Cats Hate the Smell of Certain Herbs 

The aromatic scent of rosemary and thyme are perfect accents for turkey and stuffing, but to a discerning feline nose, it is d.i.s.g.u.s.t.i.n.g! These herbs don’t really pose a threat to a cat if ingested, so go ahead and plant them directly into a flowerbed as a deterrent or in a pot close by. 

Cats Hate the Smell of Some Trees 

Manufacturers are always coming up with the latest and greatest feline-orientated inventions. However, the one thing they will never try to sell a cat parent is cedar or pine-scented products. Cats hate the smell! So if Kitty has an issue and can’t use traditional cat litter, avoid pine and cedar shavings or you may find she’s doing her business elsewhere. 

Cats Hate the Smell of Certain Spices 

We may not be able to picture our palates without the fine taste of cinnamon, curry, or pepper; however, cats are quite fine if they never catch a whiff of these offenders again. Although cinnamon is not considered toxic to cats, avoid any of the peppers as a deterrent as these do pose a health risk to our feline friends if ingested.

 Cats Hate the Smell of Some Human Foods 

Looking for a healthy snack? Why not slather a banana with mustard? It does sound gross and most felines need only take a whiff of these kitchen-finds to agree. Most likely bananas and mustard are offensive because cats wouldn’t normally eat these foods; therefore, the smell is unpleasant to their palate.

Another staple we have in our pantries is peanut butter, which may or may not be of interest to the family feline. A friend’s Siamese made no bones about his propensity to the “buttered” peanut when he loudly and violently gagged after the offending stench was wafted under his nose (but that may be just him).

Cats Hate the Smell of Skunk 

Well…duh! Who doesn’t? But did you know there is also a plant that smells like a skunk? Coleus canina (aka the scaredy-cat plant) is a perennial in the mint family that is indigenous to Asia and Eastern Africa. And even though some gardeners swear by it as a repellent to unwanted animals, it is a favorite must-have by butterflies and bees.

Cats Hate the Smell of a Dirty Litter Box 

Although a dirty litter box can be disgusting to some cats (my friend’s female Calico cat made it abundantly clear that she would not visit a soiled pan by peeing beside it) some cats don’t seem to care. If your furry friend is like the Calico then be extra vigilant in keeping the litter box spic-n-span, especially if you have more than one cat.

If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box then examine your kitty litter for a strong scent. Some perfumes are also offensive to the cat’s strong olfactory system. If your cat litter is unscented and you are keeping the box clean, bring Kitty for a check-up to rule out any underlying health issues for her sudden aversion to the litter pan.

So, What Smells Do Cats Hate?

Citrus, cinnamon, curry, lavender, rosemary, cedar, pine, skunks, dirty litter box……..these are some of the common smells cats hate, but your best buddy may have his or her own list. Don’t worry, if you watch your cat, she’ll soon let you know. If you discover something Kitty shrinks back from then consider removing it, if possible, from your home, or at least from your cat’s hang out space. Then sit back and know you’re among the many cat parents that have discovered what smells cats hate.