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What smells do cats hate?

Ginger cat smelling a flower

Did you know that cat's hate the smell of lavender? Here is a list of 10 things your cat hates the smell of.

© Konstantin Aksenov - Shutterstock

Just like humans, cats have smells that they like, such as catnip, and others that are particularly disturbing to them. Many cat owners are unaware that some of these unpleasant smells are part of the cat’s daily life. It is therefore important to know which smells a cat does not like, so that they can be avoided in the home and the cat can feel comfortable.

By Emilie Heyl

Updated on the

Cats have an overdeveloped sense of smell, which is 14 times stronger than ours. It is so powerful that our feline friends are able to smell a scent from several kilometres away. While this can be useful to detect danger, food or a possible mate, it can also be a real pain. And for good reason: when they smell a scent they hate, they smell it just as strongly as everyone else.

Understanding which smells your cat doesn’t like can help you guide your cat to good behaviour. Indeed, while some cats are curious and often go to explore new areas, other cats tend to stay in areas we don’t want them to because they could be harmful to their health. For example, if your cat loves to stay in an area of your garden where you have toxic plants, if you plant certain herbs this could help deter your can from visiting this area. Therefore, as a cat owner, it is important to know which scents your cat doesn’t like. So, here at Wamiz, we’ve put together a list of 10 smells cats absolutely hate, despise, yuk!

Understanding the cat’s smell

Although it is the third most important sense after sight and hearing, the sense of smell is essential for the cat to communicate with other cats, to select odours and to distinguish complex chemical mixtures.

The cat's nose is rich in special glands (Bowman's glands) - very similar to our sweat glands - which only become active and produce secretions when necessary. This is the explanation for the dry or wet nose - which does not depend on the cat’s health, but on the olfactory interest the cat has in its environment. If the cat is hungry or alert, the nose becomes wet, whereas the nose remains dry when digesting or resting because it does not need to work at full capacity.

A cat perceives odours 50 to 70 times better than we do. This is due, firstly, to the activation of Bowman's glands which, by secreting a particular substance is capable of dissolving the particles of any effluent, allow the olfactory endings to make a thorough evaluation, and secondly, the Jacobson's organ, or vomeronasal, located inside the cat’s nasal cavity and opens into the roof of the mouth, right behind the upper incisors, participates in this outpouring of scents; it concentrates the odours in two small pockets located at the level of the cat's nasal cavities in order to better analyse them, which is why your cat may sometimes roll up his jowls. This action allows him to direct the odours from his nose to his mouth to better interpret them.

What smell cats hate most?

By reputation, cats are the animals that most represent cleanliness. Odours are therefore very interesting in the feline world. Due to their evolution and adaptation with humans, cats have had their respective olfactory preferences. There are smells that cats love and smells that cats hate. But what smells do cats hate? How do you keep a cat away from your sofa, your kitchen, your flowerpot or your vegetable garden? If you're wondering what smells cats hate, you can find the answer here.

But first, rest assured, whether it's food they can't digest, strong natural odours or potentially dangerous chemicals, cats will always avoid or even run away from certain smells.

1/ Dirty litter box 

Cats are particularly clean creatures who hate to live in environments with questionable hygiene. However, if there is one smell they cannot stand, it is that of their own excrement. When they collect too much poop and pee in the litter box, it produces a strong odour that can discourage them from doing their business in their litter box.

On the other hand, they seem to be less sensitive to the smell of their urine. On the contrary, it reassures them.

2/ Citrus fruits

The smell of lemons, grapefruits or oranges is not really appreciated by cats. These citrus fruits are often used as natural and safe repellents. If, for example, you don't want your cat or a stray cat to go into your garden, place some orange essential oil or orange peels in your garden. They don't like the taste of these foods either, so it's possible that they'll stay away from a place where there will be lots of citrus fruits.

3/ Banana

It may seem surprising, but the smell of bananas has a way of bothering our feline friends. The reason? It seems to be because of the potassium contained in this fruit. Rub the banana peel on your sofa and leave the smell on for a day if you want to prevent your cat from climbing on the sofa.

4/ Certain herbs

There are certain herbal smells that cats can’t stand. These include: lavender, mint, eucalyptus, rue, pennyroyal, lemon thyme, rosemary, geranium and coleus. Lavender in the form of essential oils can actually be toxic for cats. Mint, especially menthol products and essential oils, can be particularly irritating to cats. If they were to eat it, it would also be toxic to them.

5/ House cleaning products

It is well known that the products we use for cleaning are full of chemicals. And cats can sense this. Therefore, use natural products such as white vinegar or baking soda. Be aware of the soaps and cleaning products you use for your home, litter box, dishes and personal hygiene. Remember that smells either attract or repel cats.

6/ Spices

Spices such as pepper, cumin, cinnamon or nutmeg are perfect for seasoning our dishes. So is mustard, chillies and cloves. On the other hand, they tend to scare cats away as their sense of smell perceives them as toxic.

7/ Perfums

Eau de toilette or eau de parfum are meant to smell good, that's a fact. But the smell of perfume is so concentrated that it tends to tickle the cats' sense of smell. The same is true of some deodorants and soaps.

8/ Lavender

As cats are pure carnivores, they have a real aversion to the smell of plants. Lavender is one of the plants they dislike the most, with geranium, lemon thyme or even wormwood.

9/ Essential oils

Essential oils smell strong, very strong. And, like any strong smell, cats have a hard time with it. The one they hate most of all is eucalyptus essential oil.

10/ Other cats

Although felines are perfectly tolerant of the smell of cats that have been in their lives for a long time, they are not at all tolerant of the smell of a newcomer. The reason? Cats like everyone they share their territory with to have the same smell. They find it more reassuring. That's why they rub themselves against furniture and even against us. If a new cat arrives, they are forced to mask its smell, for example by urinating everywhere.

Many cat owners are not necessarily aware of it, but certain odours that are in a human’s everyday life bother their cat. This is mainly due to the fact that they have a fine and delicate sense of smell: certain smells that seem harmless or only slightly unpleasant (or even completely bearable) to a human can be perceived as real olfactory aggressions by your feline. They are therefore a source of stress for him. So, in order to live in harmony in an environment that is pleasant for everyone, it is important to be aware of these disturbing odours and to organise yourself to limit them.

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