18 Common Smells That Annoy Most Cats

There are many fragrances, flowers, and essential oils that humans love the smell of. But have you ever considered how your feline friend perceives that same smell? Because a cat’s nose is much more sensitive than ours, strong smells can be incredibly overwhelming and repulsive for them. So if you’re ready to make your home a safer, more comfortable living space for your kitty, try to avoid the following 18 scents.

Citrus Fruits

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It’s quite a well-known fact that cats are repulsed by the strong scent of citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits. The essential oils contained within them might smell fresh and zesty to us, but they can be extremely overwhelming to our feline friends. As such, it’s best to avoid citrus-scented products around our cats.


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Lavender is famous for its calming, relaxing properties that can help us fall asleep. But unfortunately, the smell of lavender is anything but calming to cats. Linalool and linalyl acetate—compounds found in lavender—are particularly unpleasant to cats. So if you’re using lavender oils to wind down before bedtime, it’s best to keep your kitty out of the way.  


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Eucalyptus is another oil known for its pleasant aroma. But did you know that eucalyptus oil can actually be toxic to felines? As such, you should be very careful when using it in a home with cats. Make sure to use it away from them and never let them ingest any of the oil.


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Pine is often used in cleaning products and air fresheners for its clean, fresh scent. Sadly, cats don’t share in our love for this aroma. Many dislike the sharp scent of pine and find it overpowering to their senses. This is also why you should avoid using pine-based or scented kitty litter.


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The scent of peppermint is known for being strong yet refreshing. However, cats find the strength and mentholated nature of peppermint to be irritating and repulsive. In fact, according to CBC, peppermint can be used in your garden to keep cats from entering and doing their business.


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You may not think of bananas as being particularly strong-smelling. However, for cats, the ethyl acetate contained within them actually mimics the scent of a natural predator’s urine. As such, it’s best to keep bananas and banana-scented products away from cats.


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While many humans love the strong, distinctive smell and flavor of onions, it can be extremely overpowering for cats. Furthermore, onion is toxic to cats, so their aversion to the smell helps keep them safe. When you’re cooking onions, it’s a good idea to keep your kitties at bay and never let them ingest them.


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Vinegar is loved for its sharp, sour flavor. But cats find this same taste and smell to be repulsive. As such, if you use vinegar to clean areas of your home, you may find your cat less inclined to visit those rooms or places.


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Cinnamon is a popular ingredient in many kinds of desserts and savory dishes. However, its strong, spicy aroma can be off-putting for cats. Although it is not toxic to them in small amounts, it can irritate a cat’s mouth and digestive system. Because of this, it’s best to keep cinnamon away from your feline friends and ensure they don’t accidentally eat any.

Rubbing Alcohol

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Rubbing alcohol is a versatile product with many uses. However, alcohol fumes are both irritating and potentially dangerous to cats. As noted by Vetster, inhalation can lead to vomiting, difficulty walking, and excessive drooling, among other symptoms.


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As you may have guessed, bleach is highly toxic to cats in the same way it is to humans. As such, it’s better to use different, pet-friendly alternatives for cleaning whenever possible. If you do use bleach, keep cats far away and ensure it is all properly cleaned away before allowing them to re-enter the space.


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Who doesn’t love a cup of coffee in the morning? Well, not our feline friends. Caffeine is toxic to cats, so they have a natural aversion to the taste and smell. You should always avoid leaving coffee grounds or cups lying around where cats could find them.


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Mothballs are not just repulsive to moths and other insects, but to cats, too. Their pungent smell is off-putting and they are also toxic if ingested, which can lead to some serious health issues. As such, it’s best to use other methods of keeping moths and insects at bay.

Nail Polish and Remover

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Nail polish and polish remover contain powerful solvents that can be very irritating and potentially dangerous to a cat’s sensitive nose and mouth. It’s best to practice nail care away from your feline friends and make sure they never get the chance to ingest either of these substances.

Household Cleaners

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It’s important to keep our homes clean, but unfortunately, many household cleaning products contain strong chemicals that can be repulsive and harmful to cats. Thankfully, there are many pet-safe and fragrance-free alternatives that can be just as effective in getting the job done.

Perfume and Cologne

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Perfume and cologne may smell great to our human noses, but it’s a different story when it comes to cats. The alcohol and strong fragrances contained within these products can be very overwhelming and overpowering. They may also be toxic if ingested, so you should keep them away from your pets as much as possible.

Scented Candles and Air Fresheners

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Similarly, while the smell of scented candles may have a calming effect on humans, cats can find them off-putting. What’s more, some of the essential oils contained within candles can be toxic to cats. Air fresheners may also contain harmful ingredients.

Paint Fumes

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According to VCA, paint fumes, especially those from oil-based paints, can be very harmful to your cat, causing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. As such, it’s important to keep your cats away from paint in well-ventilated areas when you’re painting or decorating. 

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