Most Effective DIY Cat Repellent Spray for Plants

Anyone who’s both a cat owner and a plant parent will know the struggle. You bring home the plant you’ve been eyeing in the nursery for a while, find it a lovely spot in your home where you’re confident it will thrive, and three days later, you come home to a crime scene. 

Soil scattered over the floor, shards of a way-too-expensive decorative pot lying around the room, and your beloved new plant, lying broken in the corner.

Surrounding it are torn-off bits of leaves. The loss of houseplants is a widespread frustration among cat owners.

If you are not a cat lover, you may be tempted to repel the visiting cats with harsh methods. Luckily, there are many cat-friendly, alternative ways to deter cats from your plants.

The article below explains easy ways to keep cats away from your plant collection without harming either.

We’ve curated the ultimate four completely safe-to-use, natural homemade cat repellent recipes that you can use to make your plants entirely unappealing for your furry friend.

These sprays can also be used on outdoor plants or your entire yard to prevent neighborhood or stray cats from entering your property and destroying all your hard work. 

Why Do Cats Eat Our Houseplants?

cute cat eating potted plant near a window

The first thing you’re likely wondering is: why do cats eat plants in the first place? Even though cats are carnivores, they often snack on greenery.

You’ll sometimes find wild cats nibbling on grass or leafy bushes! Common belief says that they do this to aid their digestion or to help them pass furballs. Eating grass or plants makes them puke, which may help relieve hairballs in their throat. 

In indoor environments, cats can feast on your plants for various reasons. Often, they simply do it because they enjoy it. Cats may see your plants as intriguing toys you brought home for them to play with.

Your houseplants’ texture, movement, and sometimes even taste may draw your cat’s attention. Because cats are naturally curious, they will likely take a look if you’ve brought a new plant home. 

Another commonly believed reason for cats eating houseplants is boredom. When your cat lacks toys and an enriched environment, it may start looking around for something fun to do!

The Best DIY Cat Repellent Sprays

weight balance, sprayer, beaker, glass bottle, stirrer and plant placed on a table to make cat repellent spray

Protecting your greens against vicious cat attacks may sound like a lot of work or even impossible! But luckily, there are many different cat repellent options to keep your cat’s jaws and claws out of your houseplants or garden.

Below are four recipes for homemade repellents that are easy, inexpensive, and 100% effective! 

Tangy Citrus Spray

Tangy Citrus Spray with lemon and herb plants on white background

Nearly all cats have a natural aversion to anything with a citrus scent. From oranges to lemons, your cat will hate it if it’s citrus. Felines are sensitive to citrus scents because cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, 14 times as strong, to be exact! 

As you probably know, even for humans, citrus scents can be intense. Now imagine that 14 times as strong! Yikes! This makes citrus a great, safe, and efficient homemade spray to protect your indoor plants or gardens against cats. 

The strong odors from the citrus will immediately make a cat lose interest in the plant. And even if the cat would withstand the scent and go in for a bite, it will change its mind once it notices the bitter taste of lemon on the plant’s leaves. 

Spray Ingredients

  • One  lemon, juiced* 
  • 4 cups water  (one litre of water)
  • Citrus peels. You may use any citrus you have on hand, such as lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, or other.
  • You can use orange or cranberry juice instead if you prefer. Juice one orange, or use ¼ cup of cranberry or orange juice to replace the lemon. Simply use what you have on hand! 

Tools & Equipment Needed

  • A saucepan
  • A spray bottle

Bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized pot over high heat. Once boiling, add in the citrus peel of choice.  Let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool completely. Strain out the peels. Mix in the lemon juice, and pour into a spray bottle. Give it a good shake to combine the ingredients.

Application Method 

Use this lemon spray directly on your plants’ foliage, soil, and pots. Ensure to shake the bottle well before using it. Repeat the treatment every two to four weeks. Outdoor areas will need to be sprayed after every rainfall.  

You can also use this spray on furniture that your cat likes to scratch or use it outdoors on your shrubs and flowers. This spray will not harm or burn your plants!

However, if using outside, avoid getting the leaves overly wet, and avoid spraying during summer in the afternoon heat. This can burn the leaves of your plant and attract fungus!

Diluted Vinegar Spray

vinegar spray and baking soda jar on table with sofa in background

Much like citrus, vinegar has a powerful scent. For this reason, it will naturally deter cats from your plants or garden. Vinegar is an excellent option as it is 100% natural and safe.

Be mindful of the strong scent when using vinegar if you plan on using it indoors. You don’t want the smell of vinegar to linger in your home. We recommend diluting the vinegar spray slightly more for indoor use. 

Spray Ingredients

  • White vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Water

Tools & Equipment Needed

  • A spray bottle

Dilute one part vinegar with one or two parts water for indoor use. You can use equal parts of both ingredients for your garden.

Mix the ingredients well inside the bottle and shake before every use. If you find the scent too strong to use inside your home, you can dilute it further than mentioned above. 

The effectivity will stay the same if the spray is diluted since your cat will perceive the smell much more intensely than humans!

Although vinegar is safe for cats, remember that your plants will not enjoy being sprayed with it. Vinegar is acidic, and frequent use can lead to leaf burn on your plants! Use this spray sparingly.  

Application Method 

Spray your plants, soil, and pots. You can also use this spray on furniture or other areas where you’d like to keep cats away! Remember to shake the bottle well before every use.

For optimal results, spray every two to four weeks. Garden plants must be treated after every rainfall to remain effective against the feral or neighboring cats. 

Another more practical way to use vinegar for repelling cats is by soaking cotton balls in diluted vinegar and placing them around your garden.

These balls will excrete a more pungent scent than a spray, are safer for your plants, and remain effective longer.

Soak the cotton balls in the vinegar mix for 30 minutes, and scatter them around your yard. The balls must be replaced once they have dried off and lost their smell.

Essential Oil Spray

essential oil with sprayer on white table with plant leaves

Since cats are highly sensitive to scents, essential oils, such as peppermint, lemon, lavender, and rosemary oils, can offer a great solution. But make sure you use these sprays with caution.

Essential oils in high concentrations are toxic to cats, and you have to ensure your cat does not ingest the spray. This can lead to serious health issues in your feline friend! 

Spray Ingredients

  • 2-4 tsp rosemary essential oil (or rosemary extract)
  • 2-4 tsp lemon or orange essential oil
  • 2-4 tsp eucalyptus (or peppermint) essential oil
  • 2-4 tsp lavender essential oil
  • 2  tsp citronella oil 
  • 1 tsp of liquid hand soap or dish soap
  • 1.5 cups (500ml) Water 

Tools & Equipment Needed

  • A glass spray bottle. We recommend using a glass bottle for this particular cat deterrent spray because a plastic bottle may degrade quickly due to the oils. 

To make this spray, combine the ingredients and pour them into a spray bottle. The soap is an emulsifier since oil and water do not mix well.

We highly recommend you do not exceed the recommended measurements (1 part oil to 6 parts water) because essential oils may be toxic and cause harm to cats and other animals! A few drops of essential oils will go a long way.

Feel free to alter the recipe if desired slightly. For example, you can use 16 drops of lemon essential oil or 8 drops of lavender and 8 drops rosemary in the same amount of water. Again, just ensure not to exceed the ratio mentioned above. 

Application Method

Thoroughly spray your plants’ foliage, stems, and soils to keep cats at bay. Remember to shake the bottle before use. The best thing about this spray is that it will also make your house smell lovely from the scents of the oils! 

As with other sprays, you must reapply the spray in your garden if there has been rainfall. Indoors, you can use essential oils in a diffuser instead of spraying your plants directly. But remember that this may completely scare your cat out of the living room. 

Rosemary, Lavender, and Cinnamon Spray

lavender and rosemary plants in plastic pots on wooden table with sprayer

Because certain herbs like rosemary, cinnamon, and lavender have strong scents, they are excellent natural cat repellents.

These natural ingredients are non-toxic and thus a safe and highly effective method to keep your cat out of your plants or garden. Additionally, if you use the sprays indoors, the herbs will make your house smell lovely!

Spray Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp (15gr) fresh or dried rosemary 
  • 1 tbsp (15gr) ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp (15gr) fresh lavender
  • 1.5 cups (500ml) water

Tools & Equipment Needed

  • A saucepan
  • A spray bottle
  • A cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer

Bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized pot over high heat. Once boiling, add your herbs and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool completely. Pour the liquid through a fine strainer or cheesecloth, and pour it into a spray bottle. Shake well to combine the ingredients.

If you prefer, you can also let the mixture steep like tea overnight instead of boiling it. For this method, Boil your water in a kettle or saucepan. Pour the water into a saucepan and add in the fresh herbs.

You will want to leave it to sit for at least 12 hours. After 12 hours, strain it through a cheesecloth and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Remember to shake well before using!

Application Method

You may apply this herb and water spray on your leaves, soil, and pots. You can also use it outside, but you must repeat the process after every rainfall to remain effective.

Indoors, you will need to repeat the process once every two to four weeks to ensure that the scent remains strong. 

Cat Repellent Plants

Adding plants to your garden or plant collection that naturally deter plants is another wonderful way to protect your plants against unwanted feline attention.

A few plants act as a natural cat deterrent due to their smell. Below are some of our favorite plants to use!

Scaredy Cat Plant (Coleus Canina)

coleus canina scaredy cat plant with purple flower and green leaves

The most well-known cat-repellent plant is the Scaredy-Cat Plant. This plant is even named after this feature! It’s said to repel cats due to its strong scent.

If you’ve never smelled one, you may want to keep it that way. Its scent is described as skunk with a hint of cat urine. We suspect this plant will likely keep unwanted humans out of your garden, too! 

Lemon Balm

lemon balm plant green leaves

Lemon Balm is a plant that belongs to the mint family. It gives off a citrussy scent, acting like a natural cat repellent.

Placing Lemon Balm plants in strategic locations will spread a lemon-like scent throughout your entire garden, keeping outdoor cats far away from your valuable plants and bushes. 

Lemon Thyme (Citrus Thyme)

lemon thyme plant with purple blooms in field outdoors

This is a perennial evergreen that, as its name suggests, gives off a strong lemon odor. It’s often grown as a culinary herb since it smells and tastes like lemon, which is a good thing for us! However, cats and many other little plant-eating garden visitors despise the scent and taste of lemon. 

Thorny Hedges and Shrubs

genista hirsutum torrny shrub with yellow blooms in field

Prickly plants will keep cats out and repel other animals like deer or rabbits. Planting plants with spiky thorns, such as Rose Bushes or Bougainvilleas, is an effective way to protect your garden against unwanted animal visitors.  

Rosemary Herb Plant

rosemary plant in the field with green leaves and blue blooms

Rosemary is known to be a great deterrent since cats despise the smell of them. You can grow Rosemary as a thriving perennial plant in your garden or pots just by using a good rosemary soil mix, and you can enjoy this tasty herb in various dishes while ensuring your other plants are safe from nibbling cats. 

Other Methods to Keep Cats Away from Your Plants

cat staring at houseplant from a glass window

Apart from using deterrent sprays, there are other efficient ways to prevent your plants and garden from being used as a personal playground by your cat, neighbourhood cats, or even feral cats. Below are eight ways that can help you protect your plants. 

Keep Your Plants Out Of Reach

If your cat can’t reach your plants, it can’t destroy them! Try placing your plants high enough so your cat can’t get to them or in areas of your home where your cat simply doesn’t come.

Some cats will be more athletic than others, so depending on your cat, this method can be a great way to protect your beloved greens.

Place Citrus Peels In Your Garden

Instead of directly throwing your used orange peels in the compost, lay them in cat-prone garden areas! Besides keeping cats out of your greens, citrus peels contain nutrients such as nitrogen, which is essential for healthy plant growth. 

Did you know that not only cats despise citrus scents? Many common garden pests, such as aphids, whiteflies, or spider mites, hate it, too. Laying citrus peels around in your garden is a natural way to help repel pests and cats. 

Try Creating a Greenhouse Cabinet

The best way to protect your houseplants against cat attacks is simply to make it impossible for them to get to your plants.

A glass cabinet can create a beautiful display for your houseplant collection, along with added benefits like high humidity, but it’s also a great way to ensure your plants are out of reach from your cats! 

Add A Layer of Pebbles 

This is an excellent option if your cat likes to dig into your plant’s soil! Opt for large ceramic or glass pebbles, and simply lay the pebbles on top of the soil. Avoid using small gravel because this will only make the soil more appealing to use as a litter box! 

As a bonus, the pebbles create a pleasant, sleek look for your plants and may protect against pest infestations from bugs who like to lay eggs in potting soil, such as fungus gnats. A layer of stones in your garden will also prevent outdoor cats from digging into your garden soil. 

Use Coffee Grounds and Dry Mustard

Coffee and Mustard are effective cat repellents since they have a bold and strong smell. Mix these ingredients in equal amounts and blend them in a blender or food processor.  Then, sprinkle a generous amount beneath your shrubs and around your garden beds. 

This recipe will also help prevent pests and provide nutrients for your plant’s growth. If you use coffee grounds, ensure the cats are not eating the coffee! Caffeine is very harmful to cats when ingested.

Place Aluminum Foil On Your Soil

If there is one thing that all cats have in common, it’s that they despise aluminum foil. The noise and reflection from the foil will spook the cats away quickly! You can try to wrap your plant’s pots in foil with double-sided tape or lay it on top of your garden soil. 

Use Water To Scare Cats Away

A quick squirt of water can be enough to make cats jump and run off. But of course, you can’t be sitting around your garden spritzing your neighbors’ cats.

A simple solution to this problem could be a motion-activated sprinkler. When the motion sensor notices a cat is trying to creep into your garden, it will begin to sprinkle water around, scaring neighborhood cats away swiftly. 

Keep Your Cat Entertained

As mentioned, boredom can lead to indoor cats helping themselves to your houseplants. Make sure to enrich your cat’s environment with plenty of toys for chewing and scratching and, of course, enough food. 

Please remember that the fact that your cat is eating your plants does not mean you’re a bad cat parent! Cats may chew on plants for various reasons.

If you suspect your cat may be bored, it’s a good idea to introduce some more sensory toys for your feline friend. 


scared cat near a plant pot and spilled soil

Many websites and sources advise using concentrated essential oils, moth balls, cayenne pepper, black pepper, chili pepper (chili powder), or chemical sprays to repel cats out of your garden.

Please, do not use these products! They are highly toxic and can seriously harm and injure cats and other animals that get into your garden. 

Even if you are not a cat-lover, please remember that these cats are someone’s pet, and they do not like to see their furry friend harmed. Please rely on safe and natural cat-repellent options to protect your greenery instead!

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