What Plants Do Cats Hate?

What Plants Do Cats Hate?

Do you have a cat that is fond of digging in the soil in your garden? Some pet owners experience this dilemma, especially if they have an adventurous and inquisitive cat. Commercial pet deterrents, such as sprinklers and deterrent sprays, are effective to a degree but often not enough. Listed below are some garden plants you can cultivate to keep your cats out of your garden. 

What plants do cats hate?


Scientific name: Pelargonium 

Common name: Storksbills 

Geraniums emit a scent that cats find repulsive, although humans generally consider it a pleasant odor. These flowering plants can also bloom during the winter season if kept indoors and given sufficient care and attention. They are considered toxic to cats and ingesting them could cause vomiting, nausea, salivation and dermatitis. 

To care for geraniums, water only in small amounts and when the leaves begin to droop. Trim off dead leaves and allow the soil to dry out before watering again. 

Scaredy cat plant 

Scientific name: Coleus caninus 

Common name: Dogbane, painted nettle

These plants emit an unpleasant, pee-like odor that cats avoid. Most people also do not like the scent. To cultivate them, plant them in a ring or line in areas where cats usually hang out in the garden. These low-maintenance plants are easy to care for and thrive in dry conditions. 

If your cat frequents dry areas in your garden to do its business, grow these plants there to encourage your cat to go elsewhere. 


Scientific name: Mentha pulegium

Common names: Squaw mint, mosquito plant, pudding grass, American pennyroyal 

These plants are the smallest members of the mint family. They repel not only cats, but insects as well. These herbs have a stronger and more potent scent than other mint species. 

Pennyroyal is used in teas and is ideal as a ground cover. It can tolerate partial shade and enjoys full sun exposure for a few hours daily. These plants grow roots wherever they come into contact with the ground. 


Scientific name: Lavandula 

Lavender plants are commonly cultivated for their alluring scent. Many commercial products feature a lavender aroma, and it is also in demand for aromatherapy products. However, these plants are repulsive to cats since they are too strong and aromatic for them. 

Lavender also repels insects and deer, and is best planted along borders and fences. 

Common rue 

Scientific name: Ruta graveolens

Common name: Herb-of-grace, German rue, garden rue

These plants emit a musty odor that cats dislike and the leaves taste bitter, which makes them undesirable for cats to chew on. They are poisonous to humans, so be sure to keep kids away from the garden where you have planted them.

These evergreen shrubs grow well in dry to medium-moist soil and love full sun, but can also tolerate partial shade. They require winter mulch and do not tolerate wet soil. 


Scientific name: Rosmarinus officinalis

These woody perennial plants repel cats because of their scent. Their coarse, spiky leaves also deter cats because they do not like their fur brushing against prickly plants. 

Rosemary plants thrive in warm, dry climates, and prefer neutral to alkaline soil. They grow well when planted in containers and also work well as summer annuals instead of perennials.

Curry plant 

Scientific name: Helichrysum angustifolium 

Common name:  Italian strawflower, immortelle 

These strong-smelling, spicy plants will help keep cats away from your garden. They grow into thick bushes and when animals brush against them the strong scent permeates the surrounding air. Cats also do not like the coarse texture of the plants.

Curry plants can grow up to two feet and are also deer deterrents. They feature small yellow flowers, and thrive in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11. 


Scientific name: Pelargonium graveolens citrosa 

Common name:  mosquito plant 

Citronella plants keep mosquitoes at bay and also repel cats. They are a type of geranium that emits a citrus-like scent, which is repulsive and too strong for cats. They thrive in garden beds and containers, and along walkways. 

Do not over-fertilize citronella plants, as too much nitrogen reduces the fragrance of the leaves. These plants do not do well during cold weather, so move them indoors before the first frost hits.


Cats love to wander into the garden or yard if permitted outdoors. They might like to do their business among your prized flowers and plants, which could pose a big problem. Keep them away from your garden or yard by planting cat-deterring plants such as lavender or citronella. You may also opt for geraniums, pennyroyal or rosemary, which cats avoid because of its prickly leaves.

Image: istockphoto.com / Alena Shapran