Even though cats do not have as great of a sense of smell as their canine counterparts, their smell is still far better than the one we humans have. Some researchers even estimate that a cat’s sense of smell is about 14 times stronger than ours is, all thanks to the 200 million scent receptors that they have.
While some smells can attract cats, such as catnip or mice, others can be quite upsetting and even harmful. However, both are evolutionary examples of how those hypersensitive noses have helped cats to survive.
When consulted, Dr Marci Koski, certified in cat training and behaviour based in Vancouver, Washington, she had this to say: “Cats use their sense of smell to help them feel more secure in their environment, detect potential predators or danger, find food, locate mates, and distinguish familiar from unfamiliar cats,”
There is certainly a lot to know about a cat’s nose, and it isn’t just a collection of fun facts. Knowing about how powerful a cat’s sense of smell is and what smells cats hate can help you to be a better cat parent.
How to understand a cat’s sense of smell ?
A cat’s nose has developed over time to help them better navigate the world and keep them safe of course, that is exactly what Dr. Lindsay K. Merkel, an associate professor of small animal internal medicine at the University of Minnesota, had to say. Additionally, cats have evolved behaviorally and developed their unique scent processing anatomy in such a different way when compared to dogs, humans and even other animals.
Merkel adds: “Most of the scents that are considered unpalatable or unfriendly to cats are considered so because they’re associated with danger”. More in detail, the volatile organic compounds, VOCs for short, which are gases that are released into the air from a number of products and processes do often serve as clues based on scent that warn the cats to steer clear from some foods, plants or substances.
Some of the smells that cats hate are pretty self – explanatory, for example a cat will for sure dislike the smell of another cat’s urine marking their spot, while others may be surprising to some.
We have listed the top seven things that cats would rather not smell, paired with the scientific explanation behind the reason why they might hate these particular smells.
Even though certain soothing essential oils such as lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus may work great for your self – routine, your feline friend would rather not be near the scent of them. This is because the exposure to large quantities of essential oils can be quite distressing and sometimes toxic for cats due to the potentially hazardous VOCs. Merkel states that this natural aversion can basically save their lives.
If you notice your cat showing any of the following warning signs, you must immediately turn off your diffuser and move the cat into another room or outside for some fresh air.
Some warning signs are: drooling, a watery nose, troubled breathing and coughing. Unlike essential oil diffusers, pheromone diffusers may actually help calm cats.
Some of the other smells that cats do not like are the strong and acidic scent of citrus fruits. The reason behind this is that the oils from the citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit are toxic to cats. Gardeners even use them as natural cat deterrents! Just scatter some around your garden and it will keep those your troublemaking cats out.
It’s no wonder that cats don’t like the smell of hot peppers, humans aren’t particularly fond of it either. This is due to the capsaicin, which is the specific molecule responsible for the pepper’s spiciness and pungency. Merkel also states that it is associated with some potentially toxic VOCs.
So, if you want to keep your cat out of a specific area around the house, or don’t want them getting their claws and teeth on something important, spicy scents are the way to go. That is also why most cat repellents have capsaicin as an ingredient.
Plants and herbs
Some specific greens can also deter cats from unwanted areas, more specifically cats loathe the smell of lavender, marigold, rue, lemon thyme, pennyroyal and Coleus canina.
If you don’t have any lemons lying around to scatter in your yard, consider planting any of these throughout your garden as a way to keep out any unwanted feline visitors.
Many cats despise the smell of vinegar, and who would blame them. However, it is usually not toxic and can be safely used to clean cats or even deter them.
It is important that you pay close attention to how your cat reacts to it. Sometimes when cleaning up a particular spot where a cat has urinated on with vinegar, it can prompt the cat to urinate there again as a means to overpower the pungent, unwanted smell of vinegar.
One thing you don’t have to worry about is your cat getting its paws on your cup of coffee. Cats despise the scent of it, which is actually good for them as even the smallest amounts of it can be toxic and ultimately lethal to them.
It is also another deterrent used to keep cats away from yards and plants alike. However, since this still does not rule out the possibility of the cat getting coffee grounds on its skin and ingesting it while grooming, other options are generally safer.
Dirty litter box smells
Cats are natural solo players that only come together when it’s time to mate and raise their young, because of that their urine has scent markers or pheromones. These pheromones allow them to mark their territory and keep other cats away from trespassing on their personal space. This does more good in the wild, rather than with inside cats if it decides to urinate on your hardwood floors.
So, if your cat is particularly sensitive to the scent of their own urine, or even if you have multiple cats and not enough litter boxes, your cat may start to urinate in places like your bed or couch. To combat that make sure that you have one litter box for each cat and clean them daily, at the very least.
Why should any of this matter to you?
By knowing which smells cats hate helps you to get to know your pet cat better. Not only that, but by using this list you can also keep your cats safe, make them avoid chewing on specific things they should not be chewing on, and avoid certain behavioral problems in the future. You can use smells to keep your cats off of spaces reserved for humans only as well.
One of the most important things to keep track of is making sure that any scented product that you are using around cats is not harmful or toxic. Many essential oils can be dangerous for cats when inhaled or eaten, so do not use them at home unless you are 100% certain that they are safe for your pets. So, if you are in doubt of something, do not use it!