Home Cat Behavior 19 Surprising Smells Your Cat Can’t Stand

19 Surprising Smells Your Cat Can’t Stand

by Naomi Rogers
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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.

smells your cat doesn't like

Essential Oils

1. Lavender

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. 

2. Geranium

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.

3. Eucalyptus

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!

4. Citronella

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.

smells cats don't like

Kitchen Smells

5. Banana

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. 

7. Cinnamon

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.

8. Pepper

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.

9. Paprika

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.

11. Rosemary

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. 

12. Thyme

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.

13. Mustard

Cats dislike the bitter, vinegar-y smell of mustard. Some also describe it as a spicy aroma. Something cats despise.

smells your cat doesn't like

Minty Smells

14. Peppermint

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.

15. Wintergreen

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.

16. Menthol

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.

Wood Smells

17. Birch

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.

18. Pine 

Is your cat refusing to use her new pine-based litter? It could be the smell. While we often associate the aroma of pine with cleanliness, fresh forest air, and the holidays, many cats find it repelling. 

19. Cedar

Cedar shavings are another natural, dust-free option for your cat’s litter box, but beware: many do not appreciate the woody smell. Some people use cedar chips in their garden for this reason.

Did you learn anything new and interesting about our feline friends? Share this article with other cat lovers that you know so that they can learn something, too.

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