Orange cat covering his nose

Nose No-Nos: What Smells Do Cats Hate?

Cats are some of the cleanest animals on the planet. If there’s one thing that they absolutely excel at, it’s personal hygiene. But some of the smells that cats hate might really surprise you, because they smell clean to us! Cats have a tremendous sense of smell, and due to the evolutionary processes, they have certain fragrance preferences that can seem kind of strange.

In this article we’re going to explore the smells that cats will avoid at all costs, then we’ll dive into the smells that they absolutely love. And we know, as an enthusiastic cat owner, that you’re all ears.

Before we begin, let’s make it clear that cats have a sense of smell that is 14 times stronger than our own. You’ll notice that the nasal organ of each cat is much bigger than yours, but also, their olfactory system is distributed throughout their entire head. Because their equipment is built for smelling, having strong likes and dislikes is just par for the course.

Yet still, cats are like people in many ways. There are some smells that are universally detested, but every cat is different. You may find that what repulses some cats is not a problem for your feline in the slightest. That being said, we’re going to lay down the most detestable smells for the vast majority of cats. No doubt, your cat is going to hate most of the items on this list.

Top 10 Smells Your Cats Hate

1. Citrus

Cat is sniffing flowers

Cats are not fans of limes, oranges, and lemons. If you live in Florida, take note. In fact, citrus is a repellant for cats, which is handy when you want to get a cat literally off your back. Say you have a cat that keeps munching away at the flowers in your garden. Simply spray come orange oil on those flowers and you’ll find that the problem is gone. Not only do they not like the smell of citrus, but they don’t like the taste either. If you need some privacy in the morning, eat an orange.

2. Banana

Speaking of fruit, cats aren’t fans of the smell of banana. You can try to reason with them that they’re delicious and high in potassium, but it won’t do. When you try to eat a banana on the sofa, you may find that your cat retreats. In fact, if you never want the cat on the sofa, just leave a banana peel.

3. Pine

Cats are definitely not in the Christmas spirit. Not only are they not fans of the smell of pine trees, they also don’t like pine wood one bit. Consider this if you’re thinking of moving to a cabin in the woods with your cat. That being said, don’t avoid getting a Christmas tree this year just to please your cat. In fact, cats love getting tied up in these trees, but it’s mostly just to play with the lights.

4. Dirty Litter Box

Would you like to enter into a filthy bathroom to do your business? Of course not, and neither do cats. Cats detest a dirty litter box, and often they won’t get near it if it hasn’t been cleaned for a few days. To get back out you, they’ll probably just relieve themselves on your expensive rug. Even better, they might try to find one of your favorite shoes.

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5. Bad Fish

Predator cat checks if the scene is clear before having a freshly caught fish dinner

We hate that fishy smell, and so do our cats. That being said, cats really do like the taste of fresh fish, but they can’t stand the smell of fish that is a little off. Similar to us, cats don’t like anything that is out of date. And of course you know that you should never feed your cat bad fish, either. This can literally poison the little guy.

6. Pepper

Not only do cats not like the smell of pepper, but they don’t prefer spicy or heavily-seasoned foods in general. They perceive this smell as toxic, and that’s why all the cats in India are so unhappy.

7. Soap and Deodorant

We may like the clean smell of deodorant over the stinky smell of human body odor, but cats do not agree. Be careful with the personal cleaning products that you purchase, and also the products that you use to clean your home. If you’re finding that your cat isn’t going anywhere near you, then it might be that stick of deodorant that you just purchased.

8. Essential Oils

Humans use essential oils to heal and feel calm, but cats are anything but calm when they smell them. This is another reason why essential oils can be key when wanting to keep your cat out of the garden or off the table. Essential oils will strategically keep them at bay, without doing damage to the flowers or the table. The overpowering smell can cause a severe reaction in your cat, and ingesting them does even more harm.

9. Eucalyptus

Speaking of essential oils, eucalyptus is off the list. Cats perceive the smell of eucalyptus to be toxic, and it’s just as bad if they ingest it. That means that your cat cannot accompany you to the day spa any longer.

10. Other Cats

Nose No-Nos: What Smells Do Cats Hate?

You heard that right, cats don’t like the smell of other cats. They become irritated when they can smell other cats in your home, but only if it’s a new cat. Over time, they become accustomed to other cats that they’re living with. That’s why it’s important to introduce a new cat in the family very slowly.

What Smells Do Cats Love?

Now that we’ve discussed what cats hate, let’s take a moment to talk about what they love. Every cat is different, as we’ve discussed, and that means that not all cats are going to love these fragrances, even though the majority of them will. We’re going to discuss 5 smells that are very popular with felines, and these can be used when your cat isn’t paying attention to you, and you need a little TLC from them.

This may be one of the funniest videos I’ve seen. Watch the expressions on these cats faces as they smell the bad stuff. 😉

Top 5 Smells Cats Love

1. Catnip

Well, that’s obvious. Catnip is an herb that is beloved by cats everywhere. Not only can you purchase it on its own, but it also makes for a great stuffing for toys. Pretty much anything that you want a cat to play with, you should sprinkle with catnip. Say you bought a new scratcher that you’d like your cat to utilize instead of your couch, then dousing it with catnip is a great choice.

2. Chlorine and Bleach

You might not favor that fresh, chemical smell, but cats can’t get enough of it. In fact, cats like most fresh smells, except for your deodorant. That explains why cats love to lie in fresh laundry, and why they prefer the laundry room in general. If you’re looking for the ideal cleaning product for your home, choose bleach in order to keep your feline happy.

3. Shampoo and Perfume

So, cat’s don’t hate all personal care products. Dependent upon the brand, cats really go for shampoo and perfume. Even if your cat loves your cologne, be sure to never spray them with it. And also, don’t use your shampoo on your cat. There are chemicals in these products that are not tolerated by your cat’s tummy. That being said, if you choose natural ingredients with a fresh smell, your cat is going to want a lot of lap time.

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4. Plastic Bags

Cat likes plastic bags

Ever wonder why your cat loves to play with plastic bags? It’s because they like the smell of it. Not only do they like the bags themselves, they also like all the unique and interesting things that you bring home in those plastic bags. And if those smells aren’t appealing enough, cats also find the crinkling sound of plastic bags to be appealing. The same goes for paper bags, which they find to be a nice hiding place.

5. Stinky Socks and Shoes

There’s a reason why your cat likes to chew on your shoes. Not only do they like the smell of shoes and socks, but the stinkier the better. It may seem strange for an animal that favors cleanliness to like your stink, but there’s a reason behind it that you must know. Cats have frequent contact with our feet, because they’re always down below us. The smell that comes off of our feet is something called pheromones. That is the kicker. When cats smell our pheromones, they’re reminded of the love that we give them, and the food we feed them. The smell of your stinky feet fills a cat with joy and a longing for closeness, so don’t be surprised the next time they’re napping on your gym socks.


Of course, we didn’t talk about all of the smells that cats love and hate, but this is a general list that you can use as a guideline. We always want to please our furry friends, because they give us so much unconditional love and support in our lives. So next time you’re looking for a little affection, don’t eat a grapefruit.

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Product data was last updated on 2023-02-03.

"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett

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