What Smells Do Cats Hate? (Nose No-Nos)

Did you know cats have a sense of smell 14 times stronger than humans? With such a powerful olfactory system, it’s no wonder they have strong preferences for scents. In this article, we’ll uncover some surprising smells that cats typically can’t stand and those they adore. You’ll want to keep reading if you’re a curious cat owner.

Cats are known for their impeccable hygiene and excel at keeping themselves clean. Their powerful sense of smell is due to an evolutionary process that has shaped their fragrance preferences, which may seem odd to us.

It’s important to remember that, like people, cats have individual preferences. While some smells may be universally disliked, your feline friend might not have any issues with them. However, we’ll focus on the scents most cats tend to avoid.

Despite their clean nature, there are certain smells that cats find repugnant. These scents may seem pleasant or clean to us, but they are far from appealing to our feline companions. So, let’s dive into the world of cat olfaction and discover which smells your cat is likely to despise and which ones they might find irresistible.

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 some 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 also don’t like the taste. If you need some privacy in the morning, eat an orange.

2. Banana

Cats and fruit may seem like an odd topic, but it’s worth noting that cats typically dislike the smell of bananas. Despite their delicious taste and high potassium content, convincing your feline friend otherwise is futile. Want to keep the cat off the sofa? Just leave a banana peel there.

3. Pine

Cats are definitely not in the Christmas spirit. Not only are they not fans of the smell of pine trees, but 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. They’ll probably just relieve themselves on your expensive rug to get back at you. 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 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 expired. And, of course, you know that you should never feed your cat rotten fish, either. This can literally poison the little guy.

6. Pepper

Not only do cats not like the smell of pepper, but they also don’t prefer spicy or heavily-seasoned foods. 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 disagree. Be careful with the personal cleaning products you purchase and the products you use to clean your home. If you’re finding that your cat isn’t going anywhere near you, 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 essential oils can be key when keeping 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 your cat can no longer accompany you to the day spa.

10. Other Cats

Nose No-Nos: What Smells Do Cats Hate?

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 slowly introduce a new cat to the family.

What Smells Do Cats Love?

Now that we’ve discussed what cats hate let’s take a moment to talk about what they love. As we’ve discussed, every cat is different, which means that not all cats will love these fragrances. 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 great stuffing for toys. You should sprinkle with catnip for anything you want a cat to play with. If you bought a new scratcher you’d like your cat to utilize instead of your couch, 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 prefer the laundry room in general. If you’re looking for the ideal home cleaning product, choose bleach to keep your feline happy.

3. Shampoo and Perfume

So, cats 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 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 an excellent 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 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.


We’ve only touched on some of the smells cats love and hate in this brief discussion. Nonetheless, it serves as a useful guideline to keep our feline companions happy. After all, they provide us with endless love and support. So, when seeking a bit of affection from your furry friend, remember to skip that grapefruit.

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

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