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What Smells Do Cats Hate?

By Danielle Guercio
published: September 8, 2021 • 3 min. read
cat sniffing plant

Are certain smells driving your cat crazy? While we love our cats, we all agree they can be somewhat…finicky. Whether it’s their food preferences or their refusal to leave your bed, cats can be very particular about what they want. A cat’s olfactory glands are no different. Certain scents can drive your cat right up the wall!

First of all, it’s important to remember just how sensitive your cat’s nose is. No, we don’t mean when you boop it. Cats’ sense of smell is 14 times more intense than a human’s. They have scent receptors throughout their entire head, which allows them to protect themselves as well as find food and mates. Mostly because of evolution, cats feel very strongly about the scents they like and dislike. 

Here are some scents your cat definitely dislikes:


When life hands you lemons, keep them away from your cat. Cats hate the scent of lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges. It’s not the taste though. Some citrus fruits, especially lemon, can be mildly toxic to cats if ingested. No wonder they want to stay away!



Some forms of mint are toxic if ingested by your cat, so they avoid it for good reason. Cats find the smell too pungent and will avoid it at all costs. That said, it’s still best to avoid keeping a mint plant in your home within your cat’s reach. You know what they say about curiosity and cats, after all. 


Though you might love a heavily seasoned meal, your cat will probably find it rather jarring. Cats perceive strong spice scents such as cinnamon or pepper as dangerous. Certain spices, like cayenne pepper, can cause a cat serious gastrointestinal distress if consumed.

Cleaning Chemicals

If you’re new to having a cat, you might be tempted to go even harder on the home scrub-downs now that a feline lives with you. Be warned though—many cats will find these scents too severe and downright offensive. 

A Dirty Litter Box

Just like you don’t prefer using a bad-smelling, messy bathroom, cats like their space to be clean before they go. If the litter box hasn’t been cleaned, a cat might refuse to use it altogether which can result in messes around your house or worse—a kidney infection in your kitty. Make sure to regularly clean their litter box and keep everyone happy. 


Often found in cleaning products, this smell is particularly bad to cats. You should make sure to avoid this scent if you’re using any products to clean the areas around your cat’s food or litter box. 


This is another example of cats hating a smell because it indicates danger for them. The essential oil of the eucalyptus plant can be very toxic to cats, so cats tend to hate the smell of both the distilled oil and the plant itself. 

Some Other Cats

Cats are, at the end of the day, animals with instincts. They guard their territories with adorable ferocity. The smell of a new or foreign cat might annoy your kitty and cause them to act out. However, once a cat is accustomed to another cat’s smell, they generally don’t mind. If you’re bringing home a new cat roommate, try keeping them separated at first and only introducing them to each other’s scents via fabric. 

Soaps and Perfumes

While cats don’t hate the idea of getting dolled up on principle, they are very sensitive to the scents of your grooming routine. Be wary of the scent notes contained in your soaps, perfumes, and lotions. Certain notes will turn a cat off and make them potentially act out towards you, or worse—ignore you!


A delicious source of potassium, the banana is no friend to most cats. They find even the scent of the outside of the peel quite awful, and they tend to avoid it. Bananas are not toxic to cats though, so some people prefer to use them to repel cats from furniture or gardens.

Old Fish

Okay, no one likes this one. Some people might think that because cats are animals, they will eat just about anything, but cats are very picky consumers. Cats do love the taste of most fish, but they can keenly smell when something’s gone bad. This is another evolutionary trait designed to protect cats from eating something that can make them sick or potentially kill them. If you’re feeding your cat fresh fish, always be wary of the smell and the date you purchased it. 

Just like you, your cat is unique. Not all cats hate the same scents or react the same way to the ones they do dislike. Keep an eye on your cat to notice certain scent triggers. When it comes to cats, the nose knows!