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14 Plants To Deter Cats


Are you tired of having your garden bed dug up by cats? Or are you simply looking for a natural cat deterrent to protect your garden from feline visitors? If so, you’re in the right place. Cats can be a significant nuisance in the garden, causing damage to plants and leaving unsightly messes behind. Fortunately, there are several plants to deter cats from your garden beds. In this article, we will discuss 12 plants that deter cats, including plants that cats hate to keep them out for good. Additionally, we will explore why cats are bad for the garden and provide tips for keeping them away from your plants. So, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, these tips and tricks will help you create a beautiful and cat-free garden space.

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Why Are Cats Bad For The Garden?

a cat in a garden planted up with plants to deter cats

While cats can be lovely pets, their instincts and behaviours can make them challenging for gardeners. Unfortunately, cats can have several adverse effects on a garden, leading many gardeners to consider them pests. One of the main reasons for this is that cats use garden beds or patches of soil as litter boxes. This can be incredibly frustrating for gardeners who have put a lot of time and effort into cultivating their plants, as cat faeces can harm plants and introduce diseases into the soil.

In addition to the potential harm caused by their waste, cats may also trample on plants and dig up the soil, causing damage to delicate roots and bulbs. They may also use garden beds to nap or play, further disturbing the ground and potentially damaging plants.

Furthermore, cats can be attracted to certain plants, such as catnip or mint, and may chew on or roll around in them, damaging the plants.

12 Plants To Deter Cats

Even if you love cats, having them use your garden as their litter box can quickly become frustrating. Fortunately, there are several plants that cats hate which will help keep them from your garden. Incorporating these plants into your landscape can create a natural barrier that will discourage cats from entering your garden and causing damage. Here are 12 plants to deter cats:

1. Lavender

lavender planted to deter cats

Lavender is a popular ornamental plant for its attractive purple flowers and sweet, fresh smell. However, it’s this fresh smell that will help drive cats away. Cats have a powerful sense of smell, and anything that emits a powerful scent will put them off approaching your garden. Fortunately, you can grow lavender in almost any part of your garden, including borders, herb gardens and containers, so you can plant it exactly where the cats like to go to deter them. Lavender is also an excellent fly-repellent plant, as the strong-smelling oils this plant emits puts these pests off too. 

2. Rosemary

rosemary growing in pots alongside plants to deter cats

Rosemary is a classic type of sage and tastes lovely in various dishes. But, like lavender, rosemary is another of the smells that cats hate. Another bonus is that rosemary is evergreen, one of the best plants to deter cats year-round. Rosemary prefers a sunny spot with well-draining soil; you can also grow it in containers. 

3. Rue

common rue to deter cats

Common rue keeps cats away because of the offensive scent they smell from it. Fortunately, the pungent smell isn’t as foul to humans, and the plant’s blue foliage is lovely to look at. However, you must know that rue leaves are toxic to cats and humans if consumed in large doses. So, although rue is up there with plants that cats hate, you should consider the location when planting rue.  

4. Pennyroyal

pennyroyal, one of the plants that cats hate

One of the most common smells that cats hate is mint, and pennyroyal will provide you with a lovely scent that will do the job. Pennyroyal releases a strong spearmint smell that will draw you in and kick cats out. Although pennyroyal is the smallest of the mint family, you should avoid eating it, as the oil on pennyroyal leaves is highly toxic. 

5. Curry Herb Plant

curry herb plant leaves

Curry herb plant may be a weed, but it is one of the best plants to deter cats. Like the majority of plants that cats hate, curry herb plant releases a horrible odour when brushed against, which attacks their sense of smell. However, this spicy plant also has a coarse texture that cats will loathe. Since the curry herb plant is technically a weed, you should use it sparingly in your garden. 

6. Scaredy Cat Plant

Experts in Germany developed the aptly named scaredy cat plant specifically to repel pests in the garden, and it works! Whenever any animal brushes past this plant, it releases a horrible odour that will deter cats, dogs, foxes, rabbits – almost any garden pest. However, its pungent smell can be unpleasant for humans, too, so be careful where you plant this one. 

7. Catnip

Catnip is one of the classic plants that deter cats, but not because they hate it. In fact, cats love catnip, which is why it can be so effective if you plant smartly. By planting catnip in spots far away from your flower beds or in more unsightly places in your garden, cats will make a beeline for these areas rather than your treasured outdoor spots. Catnip gives cats a high by producing chemicals that trigger their opioid reward systems, so cats will lose interest in your flower beds quickly! 

8. Citronella

Gardeners often use citronella as a natural insect repellent, but it can also help to deter cats from your garden. The scent of citronella is unpleasant to cats, and they will avoid areas where it is present. Additionally, citronella plants are easy to grow, and you can plant them in pots or directly in the ground for a versatile garden. 

9.  Coffee

coffee plants planted to deter cats

Coffee plants contain caffeine, which affects the central nervous system of cats. When cats come into contact with coffee plants or their coffee grounds, they can experience negative side effects such as restlessness, nervousness, and even vomiting. This makes coffee plants an effective deterrent for cats who may be inclined to dig or play in your garden. However, caffeine can also be harmful to cats in large quantities, so you should only use coffee plants as a deterrent in moderation.

Read More: How To Grow Coffee In The UK

10. Lemon Thyme and Balm

Incorporating lemon thyme into your garden will create a fragrant and functional barrier that will help to protect your plants from unwanted feline visitors. This herb is known for its citrusy aroma and delicate flavour, and its strong scent is greatly unpleasant to cats. Plus, lemon thyme is a hardy plant that thrives in a range of conditions, so it is a practical choice for gardeners who are looking for natural ways to keep cats out of their gardens. 

Lemon balm, conversely, will work just as well since it is in the same citrus family, and both of these plants make for great bee-friendly plants too.

11. Oregano

Oregano is a fragrant herb that many cuisines around the world use, and its pungent scent is repulsive to cats. In addition, oregano contains a natural chemical compound called carvacrol, which is known to irritate the respiratory system of cats, causing them to avoid the area where it is growing. Plus, oregano is easy to grow and can thrive in a variety of soil types and conditions, so you have a cat deterrent established in no time. 

12. Geraniums and Other Prickly Plants

Perennial geraniums are one of the only plants that deter cats without emitting a pungent odour for both humans and animals. On the contrary, geraniums smell lovely to us but horrible to cats, horrible enough to keep them away.

However, geraniums also have prickly leaves, which cats will find uncomfortable to walk on. So, if you have bare soil that cats keep on trampling over, plant perennial geraniums (or any other prickly plants, including roses, blackberry bushes or holly) to keep them away.

How To Keep Cats Out Of Your Garden: Other Approaches

Realistically, not all of us are blessed with green fingers. Or, maybe you’ve tried all 12 of our plants to deter cats and have discovered that none of them has worked. Whatever the reason, sometimes you may need an alternative method when you keep getting a pesky cat in the garden. Here are some other approaches if you’re wondering how to keep cats out of your garden:

  • Cover the soil – Cats will happily walk across soft soil along your flower beds or lawn. So, make your beds and borders less attractive to cats by covering them with spiky, off-putting substances, like holly leaves, twigs or chicken wire. 
  • Grow ground-cover plants – On the other hand, you can grow ground-cover plants to cover the soil naturally. You can grow thorny plants, like roses, pyracantha or perennial geraniums, to keep your flower beds safe.
  • Attack their sense of smell – Cats have an overly strong sense of smell; it’s the primary way they identify people and objects around them. So, include some smells that they hate in your garden. For example, you could spread orange and lemon peels, vinegar or mustard seeds around your garden to deter cats. 
  • Set up an outdoor litter box – Unfortunately, it’s not always a neighbour’s cat that’s causing the issue. If your own beloved pet can’t leave your garden alone, your best bet is to set up an outdoor litter box and train your cat to use that rather than restricted areas of your garden. For a simple litter box, simply set up a shallow box, fill it with sandy soil and place it in an open area of your garden with a bit of catnip growing nearby. 

Read More: How To Keep Pests Out of Your Garden

Enjoy Your Garden with Plants To Deter Cats

Although cats can be a major problem for gardeners, that doesn’t have to be the case in your garden. Knowing ‘what plants do cats hate’ will help you deter those felines from your garden beds and take back control of your garden. So, include some of these plants that deter cats in your garden for flower beds that you’ll love seeing and cats will hate smelling! 

Plants To Deter Cats: FAQs

How Do I Stop Cats Pooping In My Garden Naturally?

To stop cats from pooping in your garden naturally, you can try planting cat-repellent plants such as lemon thyme, oregano, and citronella. You can also sprinkle orange or lemon peels around the garden bed, as cats dislike the scent of citrus. Additionally, you can use a natural cat repellent spray made from vinegar and water or install a motion-activated sprinkler that will spray water when it detects movement, scaring cats away from your garden.

What Smell Do Cats Hate?

Cats dislike the smell of certain scents, such as citrus, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and rosemary. You can use these scents to deter cats from entering certain areas of your home or garden by using essential oils, planting these plants, or using citrus peels.

What Plants Repel Cats And Mosquitoes?

Some plants that can repel both cats and mosquitoes include lavender, citronella, lemon balm, rosemary, and marigolds. These plants contain scents that are unpleasant to cats and mosquitoes and can be used to create a natural barrier in your garden. Additionally, the essential oils from these plants can be used to make natural insect repellents that are safe for both humans and pets.


Napolitano, A. (2020, January 7). Growing Rue: A Plant With History and Benefits. The Spruce. Retrieved from https://www.thespruce.com/rue-flowers-plant-profile-4768997

Paws Chicago. (n.d.). Cat Senses. Retrieved from https://www.pawschicago.org/news-resources/all-about-cats/kitty-basics/cat-senses/

National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2021). Chapter 12 – Sensory and Behavioral Responses of Animals to Essential Oils. In Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor and Safety (pp. 301-318). Academic Press. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548673/

Anna Sharples

Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches - a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.

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