How to Deter Cats from Plants (Ultimate Guide)

I love cats, and you probably do too, but when they get into your plants it can be upsetting for you and potentially dangerous for the cat. If you’re looking for ways to deter and keep cats away from your plants, you’re in luck, I’ve included over 15 original ways to deter cats from plants.

Here’s how to deter cats from plants:

  • Grow plants they don’t like such as lavender and coleus canina 
  • Use natural methods like pinecones and citrus peels
  • Try a cat repellant or two, including spray bottles full of water 

In this ultimate guide, I’ll go through the above three methods and provide plenty of products and options so you can keep the local cats out of your garden in a way you’re comfortable with. 

Let’s get started!

Plants to Deter Cats

By adding to your collection of plants, your cat problem should be behind you. The following 8 plant species are mostly non-toxic.

It’s the strong smell they produce that’s unappealing to cats. That said, not every cat reacts the same way to every plant, so you might have to do some trial and error before you find what works for you. 

Coleus Canina

The coleus canina has a particularly apt nickname: the scaredy cat plant. This plant is excellent for warding off stray dogs in your neighborhood as well.

Despite the name coleus canina, this plant isn’t a coleus. Rather, it’s part of the mint family and thus has a strong scent.

The purple or lavender barbed flowers are imposing as well, although it’s mostly the smell that’s the deterrent.

To grow coleus canina, give it lots of light, but provide more shade in a hot environment. If the weather is less warm, full sun is okay

Water the plant when the soil dries out, which can change your watering frequency by season. 


Lavender is so soothing to us people that you can barely believe cats don’t like it. Well, believe it. There’s something about the odor of lavender that felines can’t stand.

The lavender plant is surprisingly drought-tolerant, so if you go a few too many days without watering it, that’s no harm, no foul for this plant. 

Make sure you prune your lavender plant from time to time to keep it growing neatly. 

Ruta Graveolens

The Ruta graveolens or common rue is an herb and ornamental plant that hails from the Balkan Peninsula. It reaches heights of around three feet and has trademark blue-ish leaves. 

Nothing is imposing about the rue’s looks, but as for this plant’s odor? Well, cats hate it. As soon as they catch a whiff, they’ll high-tail it out of your garden. 

Like lavender, rue is drought-tolerant and can go long periods without water. You might water it about once or twice per month, so make sure you provide a lot of water when you do. 

Position the plant in front of full sun and it will flourish.  


The Mentha pulegium or pennyroyal is yet another mint family member, so you know what that means. Cats aren’t going to want to be around your other more appealing plants if there’s pennyroyal in the vicinity.

Keep the pennyroyal’s soil moist by watering it. This plant is not drought-tolerant, so don’t skip a day, please. 

Provide partial sunlight to full sunlight for at least six hours per day (eight hours is also fine). If your pennyroyal’s soil is drying out too fast, scale back to partial sunlight. 


An inoffensive herb, rosemary or Salvia Rosmarinus has needles on its stems. Cats won’t get too close to the needles, and even if they wanted to, they don’t like the taste or the smell of rosemary. 

It’s a wonderful cat deterrent to grow because its care is so easy. Keep the rosemary in a humid, warm environment, give it up to eight hours of sunlight per day, and provide sandy soil with great drainage. 

It’s worth mentioning that according to the ASPCA, rosemary is non toxic to cats.

That’s one reason it was included in our article titled: 20 Indoor Plants That Are Safe for Your Cat to Eat.


The beautiful flowering geraniums come at a price: thorny bushes. It’s those same thorns that will give cats a wide berth. 

Although it can seem a bit mean to use thorns to keep cats away, remind yourself that it’s for their best interest as well. When kitties eat geraniums, they can get an upset stomach and other irritation. 

Growing geranium requires you to water the plant when the soil gets dry. Prune often and deadhead as well, which means to remove the dead flowers on the plant. 

If the geranium gets four to six hours of sunlight per day, you’ll be more likely to see it bloom. This plant can grow flowers throughout the year if kept indoors. 

Curry Plant

Allow me to introduce you to the curry plant or Helichrysum italicum, a member of the daisy family that comes from the Mediterranean. 

As you can imagine, the curry plant is certainly odorous. The smell is contained in its leaves, so once cats get too close, they won’t wish to stick around. 

Avoid excess moisture for the curry plant if you want yours to flourish. The drier and warmer the conditions for this plant, the better. As the weather warms up though, watering the plant a bit more frequently is warranted.


I bet you thought citronella was only useful for preventing mosquitoes, right? Not at all! The plant is also a natural cat repellent due to its strong smell.

When growing the citronella plant, use moist, rich soil that drains well. When the plant’s top inch of soil has dried, it’s time to water it. 

The citronella will happily drink in six hours of sun daily. Periods of shade are fine as well, just not for too long! 

Natural Methods

If your green thumb is sore, you don’t necessarily have to stack plants on plants to keep cats away from your garden. You have a variety of natural methods you can rely on as well that I want to talk about here. 

Essential Oils

Many of the odorous scents that ward off cats as discussed above are available as essential oils that are just as effective. Those include lemongrass and lavender as well as scents such as lime, eucalyptus, and peppermint

Since a cat’s sense of smell is a lot more sensitive than ours, you don’t need to douse your home or garden with essential oils. A little will go a long way. 

Don’t try to put essential oils on the cat’s skin, and please try to move the oils away from where the cat might consume them. Essential oils can be toxic to cats. 

Citrus Peels

If the lime essential oil recommendation didn’t give it away, cats are not fans of citrus at all. It doesn’t matter if you use citrus-smelling essential oils or fresh peels, cats and dogs alike will start running.

Besides limes, lemon and orange peels will work a treat too. I do want to reiterate that the peels have to be fresh. If it’s been a few days, the peels will not have as potent an odor. If anything, they’ll begin to smell like rot. 


Here’s a trick that many cats owners rely on around the holidays when they don’t want their pets destroying their Christmas trees. Use pinecones as a natural feline deterrent.

No, it’s not the smell of pinecones that cats can’t stand. Rather, it’s the texture. Pinecones are hard and difficult to walk on, so cats will just not bother. If you spritz a citrus-scented product on the pinecones, that can make them doubly effective.

Plastic Forks

Here’s another texturally challenging cat deterrent, albeit one that’s not nearly as appealing. Use plastic forks!

Put the forks non-pronged side down into the dirt of your garden, forming a perimeter around your plants. Cats don’t want to risk getting poked by taking a wrong step, so they won’t go any further. 

Admittedly, plastic forks can look cheap and kitschy, so maybe paint them or otherwise decorate them so they’re more palatable. 

Personally I find it a great way to repurpose unwanted plastic utensils.

Motion-Activated Sprinkler

It’s no secret that cats and water just don’t mix. Since almost no cat will want to voluntarily get itself wet, a motion-activated sprinkler is the perfect solution when cats get into your yard.

If the cat takes one wrong step towards your plants, the sprinkler will activate, and the kitty will be soaked in seconds. After enduring that awful experience once, the cat won’t be so keen on returning to your yard. 

Cat Repellent Products

If you’re still struggling to control your cat problem at this point, I recommend investing in some cat repellent products. They’re a little less natural, but hey, they get the job done when nothing else has worked. 


Cat repellent sprays that are used for training felines can be commandeered to keep cats away from your plants.

Nature’s Miracle Pet Block is one such spray repellent to try. It includes active ingredients like water (99.46 percent), lemongrass oil (0.12 percent), cinnamon oil (0.12 percent), and sodium lauryl sulfate (0.30) percent. 

To use the spray, Nature’s Miracle recommends first shaking the bottle. Then spray the product around the edges of your garden, not directly on the plants. Every day, repeat this.

Four Paws Keep Off! is another product you might want to buy. This kitten/adult cat repellent also requires daily use for it to be effective.  

Barriers or Fences

Building a fence around the perimeter will make your plants impossible to see so the local cats will hopefully lose interest in your garden. Gates can also act as a good barrier for warding off cats. 

Spray Bottles

This last recommendation is an oldie but a goodie. Fill a spray bottle with water and then watch through your window for when a stray cat tries to get into your garden. You can then burst outside and spray the cat with water.

This method requires you to be around to see the cats, which means that during the day while you’re working, you can’t do much. The same goes for at night when you’re sleeping. I’d suggest combining this method with one of the above measures then. 

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