Why Do Cats Hate Citrus?

Why Do Cats Hate Citrus

You are finishing off your breakfast with a bowl of oranges when your cat walks by. You attempt to give him a slice of the fruit. But before he even gets close to you, he scurries away.

Why cats hate citrus?

Cats hate citrus fruits, from oranges to lemons to anywhere in between, because of their highly-developed sense of smell. Although most of these fruits have a sweet but tart aroma and taste that many people love, cats abhor them because the scent overwhelms their noses.

To keep things in a better perspective and explain fully your cat’s aversion to citrus fruits, it is worthwhile to learn just how powerful a feline’s sense of smell is. Felines have over 200 million sensors in their noses. In contrast, humans just have five million of these sensors. This means that your cat’s sense of smell is at least 14 times better than yours. 

Although your cat’s sense of smell is not as powerful as a dog’s, it is nonetheless impressive. Even better, cats do a better job discerning between different types of scents. In the wild, cats use their heightened sense of smell for a variety of purposes, from hunting to getting a better sense of their environment. Cats also use their highly-developed sense of smell to compensate for their weak sense of taste.

But what does this have to do with your cat’s hate for citrus fruits? A lot, actually. For you, the scent of these fruits may be sweet. But for your cat and his heightened sense of smell, just a little whiff of the aroma of these fruits is more than enough to elicit a negative reaction from him.

Imagine the vilest stench that you can think of. Now multiply the power of that scent by fourteen times and you can get a fair idea of what it is like for your cat to smell a citrus fruit.

Other scents that cats hate

Apart from citrus, cats also hate a few other scents.

1. Herbs

Cats abhor the scent of lavender, geranium, eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme, and rue. 

Many gardeners use these plants as deterrents against cats that invade and destroy their plants. Although these are effective ways to keep away felines from your garden, be aware that some of these can be toxic to cats. 

In particular, keep your cats away from lavender, geranium, eucalyptus, and rue. When ingested, these plants can cause a host of problems, ranging from nausea to dermatitis.

2. Mustard and bananas

Bananas and mustard are safe for cat consumption, that is if you can coax your pet to eat any of these.

Bananas, in particular, are beneficial to cats as these contain potassium and fiber. Apart from that, bananas are easy for cats to chew.

Unfortunately, cats do not like their scent.

3. Spices

Cats dislike the smell of pepper, curry, and cinnamon, spices that are commonly found in many household kitchens.

Cinnamon is safe for cats. On the other hand, pepper and its by-products like pepper flakes are harmful to cats. As such, avoid using these as deterrents against felines.

4. Menthol and mint

Cats veer away from products that have a strong menthol or mint odor. This is because mint and menthol cause diarrhea and vomiting in felines.

5. Cedar and pine

Wondering why your cat is not using his litter box. It is probably because you used a cat litter containing either pine or cedar. Cats hate the scent of these woods. In general, cats prefer unscented clumping litter.

6. Dirty litter box

Cats are notorious for being fastidious creatures. As such, a dirty litter box can be off-putting to them.

The issue gets worse when you have a few cats in your household. Sometimes, felines are territorial and will not use a litter box if they get a whiff of another cat’s scent. Instead of using the litter box, he will do his business in another area in your home.

Using scent as a cat deterrent

Cats are inquisitive by nature. That is one of the reasons why they make great companions. But it is also this inquisitive nature that can get them into bad spots, causing harm to themselves and the destruction of the stuff of their humans.

While it is impossible to totally prevent cats from going to areas where you do not like them to go to, there are a few tricks that you can try. One of these tricks entails leveraging your feline’s dislike for certain scents.

In the garden

The easiest way to keep cats away from your precious crops is to install fences or use nettings. However, both can be unsightly and time-consuming to install.

One alternative you can try is planting lavender, rue, or coleus canina around your crops. As previously mentioned, cats hate the smell of these plants.

You can also try putting citrus peels near your plants to ward off your cat. However, fruit peels tend to degrade fast and you will need to replenish these immediately.


If it is impossible to place a physical barrier between your cat and an area that you want to limit his access to, one trick that you can try is spraying a solution made out of natural oils.

Take one part of natural oil, like those extracted from lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, or citronella, and mix this with three parts of water. Spray that solution to an area and object and leave it to dry.

Your cat will avoid that area for a long time because they will remember the scent for a long time.

Your cat’s strong sense of smell

Your cat’s dislike for certain scents like citrus is not just a matter of taste. Cats hate certain scents not just because they find these repulsive. These scents can linger in their noses even after days or weeks pass by.

Image: istockphoto.com / Sviatlana Barchan