What Essential Oils Do Cats Hate?

What Essential Oils Do Cats Hate?

Cats have an acute sense of smell, so it is possible that even if a smell is pleasant to a person’s nose, their cat may not feel the same way. Some people even use essential oils as a way of keeping cats from loitering around certain parts of their house. But is this technique really effective, and is it safe for your cat?

In this article, we will discuss some of the essential oils that cats hate, whether they are an effective repellent, and what to do when your kitty accidentally comes into contact with certain essential oils.

What essential oils do cats hate?


One of the essential oils that cats tend to steer clear of is lavender. Some people grow lavender in their outdoor gardens to deter neighborhood cats from loitering around their yards.

Unfortunately, lavender essential oil can be very toxic to cats. In fact, this form of lavender may be the most dangerous to have around your cat.

Most people use lavender oil in diffusers so that it vaporizes into the air in their home, spreading a pleasant smell. When the oil vaporizes, however, the vapor droplets may be small enough to be quickly absorbed by the skin of both humans and cats. Humans have the enzyme necessary to metabolize the oil, but cats do not. The oil makes its way to the cat’s liver and, due to the absence of the enzyme, the liver may possibly shut down.

You can still use lavender essential oil at home, but try to use it only in rooms that cats do not frequent.


Another essential oil that cats hate is citronella oil. This oil smells very similar to citrus and is quite strong. The intensity of the scent makes it annoying and irritating for the cat to stick around where the smell is.

Fortunately, this essential oil is safe around pets and is potent enough even to repel insects, such as mosquitoes.

To use citronella as a cat repellent, mix 20 drops of the essential oil in a spray bottle with one cup of water. Shake the solution before spraying it on surfaces around the house as well as parts of your garden that you would prefer cats to avoid. You can also use citronella candles for the deterrent effect to last longer.


Eucalyptus oil is also hated by cats. It comes from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, which is native to Australia, and has a very potent smell that is quite similar to menthol. This minty, pungent smell is detested by cats and they will stay away from it as much as possible.

To use eucalyptus oil as a cat repellent, take a cloth and soak it in the oil. Place this oil-soaked cloth in the area you would like the cats to stay away from. You can also place a little oil on a cloth or rag and wipe down surfaces with it. Take small pieces of oil-soaked cloth and tie them around trees or plants in your garden to protect them from wandering cats.


Cats also hate citrus essential oil. This includes all citrus oils, like lime, lemon and orange. These oils have very strong scents because they come directly from the skins and peels of the fruits. The potent, bitter smell is hated by most cats and works well as a repellent.

Use citrus oils as a repellent by soaking cotton balls in the oil and putting them in areas you want cats to avoid.

You can also make a solution of one part oil and three parts water in a spray bottle. Spray down surfaces, walls, fabrics and plants with this solution.

If you run out of citrus oil, you can even rub citrus peels directly onto surfaces, because there are natural oils in the peels themselves. You can also grind up the peels and sprinkle that in areas and on plants that cats like to hang around.

Are essential oils toxic to cats?

Yes, unfortunately there are essential oils that are toxic to cats, especially in high concentrations.

As mentioned above, diffused oils can stick to the cat’s skin and the tiny droplets can also be inhaled and affect the cat’s lungs. The oils can also get into the cat’s fur and they may ingest it while licking themselves when they groom. Toxicity can happen quickly or over a long period of time, depending on the concentration of the oil they are exposed to.

The symptoms of essential oil poisoning include wheezing, panting, coughing, wobbling while walking, tremors, vomiting and drooling.

If you use essential oils in your home and you are seeing these symptoms in your cat, take them to the veterinary clinic immediately.

What are safer alternatives as cat deterrents?

Water and vinegar mixture

In a spray bottle, place equal parts water and apple cider vinegar. Use it the same way you would the essential oil spray and apply to areas you want your cat to avoid. This solution helps neutralize odors, and because the odor making the cat return to a certain spot is gone, the cat will refrain from returning to that same spot. Make sure you patch-test the solution on your furniture before spraying it, as it may damage the material.

Aluminum foil

Another method is to apply aluminum foil on countertops or furniture that the cat likes to jump onto. Your cat will not like standing or walking on aluminum foil as the texture and the noise will scare the cat. You can also use sandpaper or double-sided tape to achieve the same results. Keep those materials on the surfaces for a few days until the cat has trained itself not to jump on them because of the way the materials feel on its feet.


Lastly, you can always use a good old spray bottle with water. If you happen to catch your cat in places you do not want it to be, give them a spritz or two until they leave. Try to do this several times until the cat is trained to no longer go where you do not want it to go.


Essential oils that cats hate include lavender, citronella, eucalyptus and citrus. The strong and potent smells of these essential oils are too much for a cat’s nose and they would rather run away from the smell than stay in the area where it is strong.

Though these essential oils may be effective in keeping cats away, they do harbor the possibility of toxicity, be it through ingestion, inhalation or absorption through its skin. Cats’ livers do not produce the enzyme that effectively breaks down the oils; they end up poisoning the cat, especially in high concentrations.

You may be better off using safer alternatives of cat repellent, such as a water-vinegar solution spray, aluminum foil or plain water.

Image: istockphoto.com / Space_Cat