Cat repellent can be used to keep a cat away from potential danger, like a toxic houseplant, or from sinking their claws into your valuables, like a brand new sofa. The term cat repellent can refer to a variety of products including sprays, adhesive tapes and panels, and even mats that deliver a mild static shock upon contact.
If you find yourself in need of cat repellent, cat behaviorist Mieshelle Nagelschneider of The Cat Behavior Clinic strongly advises selecting a product in accordance with the pet training principal of "LIMA," an acronym meaning "Least Invasive and Minimally Aversive."
"Cats don’t need much of a negative outcome to deter them from jumping up on the kitchen counters or clawing furniture. In fact, even a minor inconvenience will usually be quite effective, and most cats will learn after three experiences with a cat deterrent," Nagelschneider told The Spruce Pets.
We purchased 18 cat repellents to see how well they could keep curious cats at bay in real homes. For two weeks, we observed the effectiveness of each product, paying close attention to our participating cats' reactions and behavior adjustments. We also took note of our own feelings towards the cat repellent and any lingering residue left behind or obnoxious smells emitted.
Your cat's personality and the space you want to keep them away from will strongly influence which cat repellent is best suited for your situation. Our favorite cat repellent is Pet Mastermind Claw Withdrawal Cat Spray because it can be used on a variety of household surfaces, leaves a light lemony scent, and effectively deterred a cat for up to three days during our testing trial. But there are other types of cat repellents we found to be safe and reliable deterrents.
Pet MasterMind Cat Spray
Effective for up to 3 days after application
Small spray perimeter allows for targeted placement of repellent
Light lemony scent
Safe to use on furniture and carpet
Bottle may only last a month with repeated applications
In our real-world testing, the Pet MasterMind Claw Withdraw Cat Spray effectively deterred our participating feline from pouncing and clawing at the couch cushions in their home. The liquid spray cat repellent is safe to use on a variety of surfaces including furniture and carpet. We didn't experience any staining or discoloration, but you should always test fabric in an inconspicuous spot to be safe.
The Pet MasterMind bottle—available in four or eight ounces—has a low spray perimeter, which allows for targeted use of the product, spraying only the spaces we want to keep cat free. It leaves behind a light, fresh scent reminiscent of lemons, and was reliably effective for up to three days. A quick reapplication of the cat repellent every few days kept our cat's claws away from the sofa.
With regular applications throughout the week, you may find that an eight-ounce bottle runs out rather quickly, so habitual use of Claw Withdraw Cat Spray could add up. But it's worth the price in our opinion because it's safe, invisible, and doesn't require a face mask or protective gloves for application.
The formula is made with an herbal blend of astragalus and rosemary. The formula is also free of parabens—chemical preservatives connected to endocrine disruption in mammals.
Price at time of publish: $17 for an 8-ounce bottle
Type: Spray | Dimensions: 4 or 8 ounce bottle | Active Repellent: Astragalus-rosemary herbal blend
Sofisti-Cat Scratch Deterrent Tape
Effective on multiple surfaces including furniture, doorways, and drapes
Can be cut to size
Very visible on surfaces
Sofisti Cat Scratch Deterrent Tape is a double-sided tape that is safe to apply throughout surfaces in a home including drapes, upholstery, and walls. It can be purchased as a 15-foot roll of tape or as a pack of 15 x 12-inch sheets.
We used the roll to deter a cat from scratching at a wooden door and doorframe. The tape is effective, easy to cut, and affordable, so there is no need to ration its use. The deterrent tape looks white on the roll, but appears more translucent once both sides are exposed—one stuck to the surface you want to protect and the other ready to repel claws. While not opaque, the tape is still very noticeable on surfaces.
The tape is intended to help you train your cat to direct their clawing elsewhere, such as a scratching post placed nearby. You can encourage your cat's better behaviors by giving them treats when they use the proper surfaces, instead of your furniture.
Price at time of publish: $10 for 15-foot roll
Type: Tape | Dimensions: 15 feet x 2.5 inches; 15 x 12 inches | Active Repellent: Sticky film
Four Paws Keep Off! Cat & Dog Repellent Outdoor & Indoor Spray
Safe to use on a variety of surfaces
Effective for up to 24 hours in our real-world testing
Quickly covers large areas to repel cats and dogs
Will irritate skin if you or your pet make direct contact while spraying
Face and hand covering strongly recommended during application
Four Paws Keep Off! Cat & Dog Repellent Outdoor & Indoor Spray is an aerosol spray, allowing for convenient and wide dispersal. It's best if you need a repellent that works quickly, plus it's an affordable spray that can be used on a variety of surfaces indoors and outdoors, including counters, trash cans, and furniture.
Unlike our selection for Best Spray, this formulation should be handled with caution. The smell is strong and will irritate the skin so we recommend covering your nose, mouth, and hands before spraying. You should also keep your pets away during the application phase. Once the spray is down the repellent will keep them away for up to 24 hours. If using the spray on an indoor surface, we found it more bearable to spray on a towel outside and then quickly bring the dampened towel inside to wipe down the intended surface. This repellent is also available in a 16-ounce spray bottle.
Price at time of publish: $5 for 6 ounce-bottle
Type: Spray | Dimensions: 6 ounce bottle | Active Repellent: Isopropanol alcohol, proprietary blend
Best for Outdoors
Safer Brand Critter Ridder Animal Repellent
Quickly coverslarge outdoor areas
Effective for up to three days in our real world testing
Repels other visiting animals including skunks, raccoons, squirrels, and dogs
Strong chemical scent during application
The Safer Brand Critter Ridder Animal Repellent is designed for outdoor use. We found it to be effective for up to three days. During our real world testing trial we applied this spray to a front door entryway and outdoor stoop—a favorite escape route for a curious cat. Their escapades came to an immediate halt with the introduction of the spray, and our former escape artist now spends their days safely at home, and far away from the treated area. We found the spray to have a strong chemical scent during application but it dissipated soon after.
In addition to cats, the spray is designed to deter skunks, raccoons, squirrels, and dogs via their sense of smell and taste. The formula includes black pepper oil and capsaicin, derived from chili peppers, to spoil the appetite of animals that may mistake your trash bin for a buffet.
Price at time of publish: $20 for a 32-ounce bottle
Type: Spray | Dimensions: 32 ounce bottle | Active Repellents: Dried blood, Putrescent egg, garlic, black pepper oil, capsaicin
Best for Furniture
Stelucca Amazing Shields Cat Scratch Deterrent
Easy to apply and can be cut to desired dimensions
Effectively keeps cats from clawing fabric surfaces
No smells or liquids
Not appropriate for leather or faux leather
Wears out quickly in high traffic areas of a home
The Stelucca Amazing Shields Cat Scratch Deterrent is a highly effective, chemical-free cat deterrent designed to protect upholstered furniture pieces from becoming your cat's manicurists.
Each transparent sheet has a sticky side that can be applied to a variety of fabrics but is not recommended for use on real or faux leather. We found it easy to adhere and it successfully protected the side of an armchair from the fury of our cat's claws. These shields felt more substantial than others that we tested, but they are still flexible and can easily be cut to size with a standard pair of scissors. After a few days in high-traffic areas, we did notice some gaps where the adhesive was starting to wear, but the protection was still intact.
From playtime to survival, a cat's claws are their essential multipurpose tools and they instinctually seek out surfaces to claw to keep their nails filed and healthy. It's important to have designated areas, like a scratching post, and interactive toys, so your cat can safely unfurl their claws when the mood strikes.
Price at time of publish: $18 for pack of 6 shields
Type: Adhesive shield | Dimensions: 17 x 12 inches| Active Repellent: Translucent panel
Best Scat Mat
PetSafe ScatMat Indoor Pet Training Mat
Suitable for areas and objects that are harmful to cats but cannot be sprayed, like food preparation surfaces
Effective in keeping cat away during our real world testing
No chemicals involved
Static shock deterrents should only be used as a last resort
9-volt batteries aren't often kept on hand
We recommend this product only for use in situations where a cat could potentially cause severe injury to themself or someone else in your home. If your cat is drawn towards danger—hydrangeas, chocolate, the cutting board where you prepare not-safe-for-cats-foods like onions, chives, and garlic—then a scat mat is an effective way to keep your cat from potential injury.
The PetSafe ScatMat Indoor Training Mat has a smooth surface that delivers a small electric shock—similar to a static shock—on contact. You can choose between three different settings on the LCD screen. The goal of this type of cat repellent is to keep your cat away from harm and to scare them into learning which space or object is forever off-limits.
We tried the ScatMat on ourselves before using it with a cat. The sensation is startling and uncomfortable, but not overly painful. Still, it's impossible for us as humans to know exactly how the ScatMat might feel for a cat, so we urge its use only as a last resort.
This scat mat from PetSafe is available in a few different sizes and requires a 9V battery to operate. Unlike sprays, its effectiveness is consistent and there is no detectable scent.
Price at time of publish: $55 for 60 x 12 inch mat
Type: Scat Mat | Dimensions: 60 x 12 inches; 50 x 12 inches; 46 x 3 inches; 48 x 20 inches; 30 x 16 inches | Active Repellant: Battery-powered shock
Pet Mastermind Claw Withdrawal Cat Spray is our top pick for cat repellent spray because it's easy to target specific areas, doesn't leave residue or a strong smell, and effectively kept a cat away from the couch cushions. If you prefer a physical barrier, the Stelucca Amazing Shields Cat Scratch Deterrent are sturdy yet flexible panels that offer peace of mind. They are easy to apply and don't use any chemicals to keep a cat's claws off your couch.
How We Tested
We purchased 18 cat repellents to test their claims of keeping claws away in real homes. For two weeks, we observed the effectiveness of each product. Carefully paying attention to our feline participants' reactions and any changes in their behavior. We gathered insights and also documented our own experiences and reactions to the products.
At the end of our trial period, we analyzed and categorized our findings. Using our first-hand information, we ranked and categorized our top picks. All of our recommendations for cat repellents are safe for use around pets and humans.
What to Look for in Cat Repellent
“Being the sensitive creatures that cats are, a mild deterrent is not only usually enough, but doesn’t need to be used for very long due to their shallow learning curve,” Nagelschneider told The Spruce Pets. “A cat repellent should also be remote, so the cat owners are not involved. We don’t want the cat to endure the stress of their cat owner deterring them. Yelling at your cat or squirting them with a squirt gun can break the cat/human animal bond and increase stress, lead to aggression issues, create owner absent behavior (i.e. clawing your favorite chair when you’re not around) and even create new stress-related behaviors (like chewing on the wicker basket).”
First clearly identify the behaviors you’re trying to deter. Some products focus on just one or two of the undesired behaviors while others address them all. Decide whether you’re trying to prevent lounging, scratching, chewing or spraying, then ensure the product specifically addresses that behavior.
Sticky tape or protective plastic barriers can prevent lounging and scratching but won’t help with spraying. Sprays and pellets can contain ingredients that have a foul smell to keep animals away from a particular area and/or contain bittering agents that will prevent chewing. If the product label does not mention the specific behavior you’re trying to prevent, keep looking for one that does.
The first determination is whether you need an indoor or outdoor product—or one that can be used in both locations. Some products can only be used indoors because they do not hold up to the weather or rely on concentrated odor as a deterrent. Others may need to be plugged into an electric outlet or can only be used outdoors because the smell is unpleasant to humans, or the ingredients are not appropriate for application to furniture and fabrics.
Read the label thoroughly before you purchase to make sure it is appropriate for the surfaces you want to protect. Whenever using a new product on objects such as furniture, painted surfaces, curtains, rugs, or decking, always spot test a small and unnoticeable area for staining and odor acceptability. If the area is negatively affected by the spray, you can apply it onto a piece of cloth or towel, let dry and then place it onto the area you want protected.
Coverage Area and Application Rate
Consider how much space you’re trying to protect and whether you’ll need to treat the area just once, daily or weekly. Are you trying to keep feral cats from using your flowerbed as a litter box or just trying to keep your tenacious kitty off your grandmother’s antique chair? Some cat repellents are designed to cover small areas—a few feet, at most—while others can cover up to 3,000 square feet or more. Some can be applied just once (thoroughly) while others require multiple, consistent applications to truly break the habit.
Many sprays and pellets are sold in a variety of volumes and sizes so check the label to ensure you’re getting enough product to ensure you can follow application recommendations for the best chance at success.
For large outdoor areas, consider motion or infrared activated repellents that use sound, water, flashing lights or a combination of all three. However, cats are cunning and can often figure out through trial and error where the edge of coverage is. Then they just modify their path to avoid triggering sensors. To avoid this phenomenon, you might need to reposition or move the sensor regularly to keep the cat guessing.
Do cat repellents really work?
“Yes, the ones that work do,” says Nagelschneider. “You also need to use the right deterrent for the job. Bitter apple spray may work well to keep a cat from chewing on electrical cords but spraying a product like this or other scent deterrent products along the perimeter of your lawn will not keep an outside a cat away. They will walk right over them.”
Do sonic/ultrasonic cat repellents work?
“We have been recommending these for many years to deter outside cats from entering your property,” says Nagelschneider. “However, these should never be used inside the home and they will need to be turned off if/when your inside cat goes outside.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
This roundup was updated by Anna Mejorada, a writer for The Spruce Pets, who shares her home with a lovely pomeranian named Gidget. Before researching and writing about pet products for a living, Mejorada embarked on a self-mandated, ongoing quest to find the optimal items for her dog. She is now delightfully devoted to helping humans discover and select the most favorable products for their pets.
A previous version of this story was written by Lorraine Wilde who has had at least two cat and two dog companions in her home for the past 35 years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in biology and a Master’s degree in environmental science with an emphasis on toxicology. She is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed, and environmentally conscious choices to protect their pets, their families, and our planet.
Wilde spoke with Cat behaviorist Mieshelle Nagelschneider of The Cat Behavior Clinic. Nagelschneider is an Oxford-trained Certified Cat Behaviorist™ and Cat Science Author on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. She has 25 years of experience providing comprehensive behavior care based on feline evolutionary biology. Nagelschneider is a pioneer of the cat behaviorist specialty, having assisted thousands of pet owners in their understanding and problem-solving with cat aggression, urination, defecation, spraying and vocalization.