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Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for Best cat repellents

The reason you love cats so much is probably because they have a mind of their own. But that adorable characteristic is frustrating when you’re trying to stop your pet from doing something they shouldn’t be doing or attempting to keep strays out of your yard so they don’t stress your indoor feline. If only there was a perfect cat repellent to do the job.

As with any product made for finicky cats, some repellents work wonders while others fall flat. The best course of defense is to create an integrated, multilayered repelling plan. It’s not as complicated as it may sound, thanks to the number of cat-repellent products on the market. Cats will dig in their heels and refuse to give up their habits unless you’re persistent and find the right combination of products to get the message across. From liquid spray to electronic, there’s hope.

All repellent solutions are humane, harmless, and nontoxic, and sometimes it’s fun to watch the results as cats begin to catch on.

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If you’re using a manual spray or a device that emits a sound, reward your cat with a treat when you see a positive behavior. That way, your cat won’t associate you with the repellent.

Key considerations


There are sprays, granulars, scat mats, and different types of electronic/battery-operated cat repellents. Repellents are designed and made to be humane and won’t put your cat in any danger or discomfort. They’ll only annoy your cat until it feels uninvited enough to stop visiting a restricted area. There are pros and cons to each type of repellent.

Spray: This is the most common type of cat repellant. A number of sprays, such as citrus-based products, smell pleasant to humans but not to cats. Some repellent sprays multitask as general surface cleaners. Advanced sprays use pheromone technology to calm cats down while adding noise to refocus your pet’s attention to end negative behavior.

On the downside, frequent reapplication of sprays can get pricey. You have to be consistent with the applications or your cat’s bad habit will recur. Sprays are best used indoors, not outdoors where they can be washed away in the rain.

Granular: A large jug of granular repellent is ideal for safely scattering outdoors and uses smell to keep cats out of gardens.

As with sprays, frequent reapplication can get pricey, and granular products seem to be the weakest of the choices.

Scat mats: Indoor/outdoor scat mats have semisoft rubbery or flexible plastic nubs that uncomfortably tickle a cat’s paws, along the same lines as the underside of a plastic carpet runner (which could be equally as effective for some cats). Battery-operated scat mats may emit a mild shock when your cat puts a paw on the surface. They’re perfectly humane, and even the Humane Society mentions them as a repellent option.

On the downside, some cats like the feel of the rubbery pricklers, and you need a few mats to cover a lot of area.

Electronic/battery-operated: Motion-activated ultrasonic devices that emit sounds are safe and somewhat effective. Devices that consistently shoot out compressed air or sprays of water can surprise a cat into avoiding the area. All you have to do with these devices is set it and forget it. (Your cat’s reactions may also give you a chuckle.)

On the downside, you have to use more than one in a yard, though a single device that emits sound could work in a doorway where a stray cat likes to leave its mark. It’s also a hit-or-miss method when trying to figure out the best spots to set the devices.

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Did you know?
Sprinkling cayenne pepper around your garden can do wonders to keep all types of animals, including cats, away from your plants.

Cat repellent features


Regardless of how awful the scent of a repellent is to a cat, it should be pleasant to you, if you notice it at all. If you love citrus, you’ll appreciate citrus-based repellents, though your cat probably won’t. The same goes for cinnamon, lemongrass, lemons, limes, or other fragrances in repellents that are best tolerated by humans but not so much by cats.

Multipurpose cleaner

Some sprays double as cleaners or stain and odor removers. Orange-based sprays work well as both. Look for bottles of concentrate that go a long way when mixed with water in a separate spray bottle. Consider sprays that have zero synthetic dyes or aggravating fragrances. A multipurpose repellent/cleaner degreases, and it’s safely used indoors on materials from glass to leather to vinyl and outdoors on all types of materials from metal to granite to stucco.

Cat repellents prices

Inexpensive: From $6 to $13, you’ll find most of the repellent sprays and small containers of granules. It’s a great entry price point to experiment a bit to see which spray repellent works for your cat or outdoor strays.

Mid-range: Between $14 and $26, you’ll find the bulk of different types of repellents. You’ll find a few ultrasonic and battery-operated repellents in this range, plus training and scratch-repelling tape and indoor and outdoor scat mats.

Expensive: Over $30 and up to $64, you’ll spot most of the ultrasonic and motion-sensing outdoor devices. You’ll also find multipacks of spray repellents in this price range, so stock up once you find one that works for your household.


  • Try citrus. The easiest way to repel a cat is to use anything with a citrus scent, from oranges to lemons to limes. There are plenty of cat-repelling products using these scents, and if you have a preference, you can use the real thing indoors as part of your deterrent plan. Keep a bowl of freshly cut lemons or limes on the counter where you want your cat to stop prowling, or peel an orange in a room you want to keep off limits to your pet. Outdoors, discard lemon, lime, and orange peels in the areas you’d like to stay cat-free. By the way, try bananas; some cats abhor the smell.
  • Try sounds. In a pinch, use sounds that you create (versus a motion-sensor product) to repel a cat. If you’re creating the sounds manually, use them infrequently around your pet. You don’t want your cat to become fearful of you. Of course, you won’t mind scaring off feral cats if you make these sounds outdoors. Use a whistle with a short, sharp sound, or shake a can of loose change to startle and deter them.
  • Try motion. One motion-activated cat deterrent may not be enough. Once a cat realizes there’s an annoyance in one spot of your yard, it will find a way to defy it and look for another way into your yard. It’s best to be strategic in your plan and place more than one motion-activated repellent in your yard or garden. The cat will soon get the message that the area is too much trouble to visit.
"Tell feral cats your feline restaurant has gone out of business by eliminating any source of outdoor garbage. Doing so also controls the rodents on which feral cats prey. You can also use an electronic or spray repellent around your garbage cans."
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To further help repel strays in your yard and garden, add a nontoxic, cat-resistant herb such as rue or rosemary. Another deterring plant is Coleus canina, also called the scaredy-cat plant or Plectranthus caninus. The smell is said to deter cats, but remember that one cat’s repellent is another cat’s delight.


Q. Are there any materials that repel cats that I can use indoors along with sprays?
If you don’t mind looking at a few pieces of random tape or foil strewn around your home, we have a few good ideas that tend to work. Since you can’t use an electronic water-spraying repellent device indoors, you have to be creative when crafting a plan that also uses spray.  Cats hate certain textures on their paws, such as aluminum foil and tape. Foil’s crinkly texture and sound annoy cats, so place it anywhere you want your pet to avoid, including counters. Or you can use double-sided tape, because anything that sticks to their paws is highly exasperating to them. Put double-sided tape on furniture to deter your cat from scratching, for example. Another texture cats hate is sandpaper. Thick plastic is yet another deterrent. Drape it over furniture and your cat will lose interest because it’s not very claw-friendly.

Q. What should I avoid when trying to repel indoor and outdoor cats?
You want to avoid anything that makes a cat ill. Even if you’re not a fan of feral cats, you wouldn’t want sick kitties running around your neighborhood seeking revenge in your yard. With that said, avoid using mothballs, which are toxic and may cause cats to become sick and lethargic. Mothballs can be fatal if ingested by a feline. Also, avoid spraying essential oils directly on cats. They’re toxic to cats if absorbed through the skin.

Q. Is lavender toxic or is it a good repellent for cats?
You’ll find numerous contradictory articles discussing lavender’s toxicity to cats. Insects, pests, and animals in general are repelled by the bitter taste of the plant’s leaves. But the scent of lavender may do nothing much for cats unless they don’t like the fragrance. However, according to the ASPCA, the leaves of a lavender plant can be toxic to cats if heavily ingested. Linalyl acetate in the leaves causes cats to become nauseated, vomit, or lose their appetite. Lavender essential oil is another danger to cats. The ASPCA says that lavender (and other) essential oils are toxic when licked or ingested because cats can’t properly metabolize the compounds in the oil. To be safe with your indoor cat, consider keeping lavender away from your pet and try lavender-free repellents.

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