Her eyes squeeze shut, her ears go flat, and a deep, painful retch emanates up from her belly. Your cat has smelled something she finds offensive.
While dogs get all the glory in the nose department, your cat is no slouch when it comes to sniffing. The feline sense of smell is up to 20 times more sensitive than our own. Consequently, many of the scents we find pleasing are an absolute affront to our kitties’ senses.
As we go through the following 19 scents you will find that many are harmful or downright toxic to felines. Perhaps their aversion is a built-in defense mechanism — or maybe it’s just that cats are extremely discerning animals.
Cats do not care for strong floral scents and lavender tops the list of their most-hated. Flowery essential oils come in handy when deterring your cat from entering a particular area of your home, but remember, a little goes a long way.
These colorful flowers make for a pleasant-smelling essential oil, but like lavender above and eucalyptus below, geranium can cause irritation if ingested. Watch for drooling, vomiting, poor appetite, and depression. Some cats may also develop a skin reaction.
Eucalyptus has a powerful scent of fresh green plants and lemon to most of us. However, some describe a “camphor-y odor with a hint of mothball” which as you may imagine, is quite off-putting to cats!
Citronella is a safer option as essential oils go, but no less repelling to your cat. Made from lemongrass leaves, it has a strong citrus-y aroma cats abhor.
Essential oils in general can be highly toxic to our feline friends. Find out what you need to know about them here on cattitudedaily.com.
Remember the horrible “cucumber challenge”? Many people assume cats hate bananas for the same reason they despise cucumbers – the shape reminds them of a snake. However, it may be the smell that truly repels your kitty. As bananas ripen the peels give off ethyl acetate which has an acetone-like odor cats despise.
6. Citrus Fruits
Lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits all give off a pungent, slightly bitter aroma cats hate. While none of these fruits are toxic to cats, they are often used in cleaning products which can be very harmful.
Many humans love the taste and smell of cinnamon, but most cats are repelled by its spicy aroma. This is a good thing because in large quantities (like those found in cinnamon essential oils) it can cause burns on the skin and respiratory irritation.
Cayenne pepper and even the black pepper on your dining room table are extremely irritating to your cat’s sensitive nose. Some people use pepper to keep cats out of their gardens, but this can cause painful irritation to their skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
A much safer way to prevent cats from entering certain outdoor areas is paprika. Made from sweet bell peppers, cats hate its aroma, but it is much milder than spices made from hot peppers and will not injure their skin, mouth, or digestive tract.
According to The Perfume Society, rosemary has a “pungent, lavender-like, aroma” similar to camphor and eucalyptus. Since cats despise lavender and eucalyptus, it is not surprising they also dislike the smell of rosemary.
The garden herb thyme is not to be confused with cat thyme, a similar-looking shrub cats love. While the garden thyme we use for cooking has an earthy, leathery aroma pleasant to most humans, cats find it repulsive. On the other hand, they are attracted to the smell of cat thyme which The Nest describes as smelling like “your husband’s nasty sweatpants.” Yuck.
Cats dislike the bitter, vinegar-y smell of mustard. Some also describe it as a spicy aroma. Something cats despise.
Peppermint contains the chemical salicylate which in large quantities such as those found in aspirin, peppermint candy or essential oil, can cause organ failure and even death. It could be that cats’ aversion to mint stems from this toxic reaction.
A favorite for breath mints, gum, and toothpastes, wintergreen is so minty it is almost spicy. In addition to its overpowering smell and taste, it contains a very high level of salicylate. Just 5ml of wintergreen oil is the equivalent of five aspirin tablets, a toxic dose for a cat.
Menthol is known for its minty, sinus-clearing aroma. Those who have had it in cough drops or cold-relieving chest rubs can understand why cats dislike the overpowering medicine-y smell.
Sweet birch essential oil is sometimes used in liquid potpourris. Unfortunately, it may cause contact burns or respiratory distress for your cat. This is likely the reason cats avoid the aroma of birch wood.