We love our cats, but there are certain spaces we need to keep them away from, whether it's to protect furniture or house plants. Cat repellents use a variety of mechanisms—bitter scents, unpleasant textures, water sprays—to keep cats away from certain spaces or objects. Cat repellents are also useful to deter feral or neighborhood cats from entering your yard and using your flower bed as a litter box.
“Choose something that follows the humane guidelines of LIMA (least invasive and minimally aversive),” recommends cat behaviorist Mieshelle Nagelschneider of The Cat Behavior Clinic. “Generally speaking, 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. Most cats will learn by three experiences with a cat deterrent that jumping up on the counter is a bad idea.”
The best cat repellent should be safe—for your cats, for your family, and for your home. It should also be effective, without leaving stains or obnoxious odors. Our favorite cat repellent is Bodhi Dog 3-in-1 Cat & Kitten Training Aid, which is mild, safe on a variety of surfaces, and effectively deters
Below are the best cat repellents available today for almost every situation where our furry friends are not welcome.
Best Overall: Bodhi Dog 3-in-1 Cat & Kitten Training Aid
Made in the United States
Effective indoors and out
Available in multiple sizes
Safe for a variety of surfaces
Kittens must be over 12 weeks old
Requires frequent re-application
The Bodhi Dog cat repellent features a bitter taste and a scent that's mild to the human nose but terrible to a cat. Safe for use on fabrics, furniture, woodwork, blinds, rugs, and almost any other surface, the Bodhi Dog 3-in-1 Cat & Kitten Training Aid is a fantastic go-to cat repellent. It's safe to use around plants, children, and other pets too. It can be used outdoors as well as indoors.
Several of our writers have used this product for years, in part because Bodhi dog is as committed to the environment as they are your pets. Based in Austin, Texas, they use socially responsible practices, locally and sustainably sourced ingredients, animal cruelty-free production, and recyclable packaging.
While Bodhi Dog's Cat & Kitten Training Aid is safe and effective, it is most effective when used correctly and frequently. You’ll need to reapply at least every 24 hours or until the habit is broken. It's also helpful to provide a close-at-paw alternative, so your cat can reorient their routine around a nearby scratcher or toy.
Bodhi Dog's Cat & Kitten Training Aid is available in a wide range of sizes, including 8-ounce and 32-ounce sprays, or a gallon refill. The spray has a mild rosemary scent.
Price at time of publish (8 ounces): $17
Sizes: 8-ounce, 32-ounce, 1 gallon | Key ingredients: Rosemary, lemongrass and cinnamon oils, bitters
Best Spray: Nature’s Mace Cat Mace Home and Garden Cat Repellent
Plant-based and biodegradable
Safe for indoors and out
Weather-resistant ingredient makes it last longer outdoors
Some humans don’t like the sulfur egg smell, test before using indoors
Many like a spray because you can clearly cover areas of your home and garden that are off limits. We like Nature’s Mace’s Cat Mace Home and Garden Cat Repellent because it’s highly rated for effectiveness and uses ingredients you recognize. It can be purchased as a concentrate that you can dilute or in a ready-to-use spray bottle. But be sure to dilute the concentrate before spraying as it can kill plants and grass if used undiluted.
Because the scent is mild to humans but annoying to both domesticated and wild cats, Nature’s Mace is effective at preventing scratching and gnawing while also generally deterring cats from treated areas.
Bad habits are hard to break, so Nature’s Mace recommends you apply the spray liberally and daily for the first week to 10 days. Once the behavior begins to change, you may switch to weekly applications. For your garden and flowerbeds, consider the dry granular pellet form.
Price at time of publish (40 ounces): $20
Sizes: 40-ounce spray bottle and 1 gallon jug | Key ingredients: Cinnamon oil, peppermint oil, citronella oil, garlic oil, putrescent egg, lemongrass oil | Range: 40-ounces covers 1,000 square feet
Best Outdoor: NaturVet Off Limits Training Spray
Safe, herbal extracts
Non-staining and water-based
Made in the United States
Only for non-edible plants and gardens
NaturVet Off Limits Pet Training Spray uses herbal extracts to repel cats both through their sense of smell and taste. They don’t like being near it so it can prevent chewing, scratching, spraying and pottying. The spray is easy to apply and appropriate for washable surfaces including furniture, lawns and gardens. If it doesn’t rain or snow, the product should last at least three days outside.
NaturVet has been in the pet industry since 1994. Their products are made in the United States in a cGMP-compliant facility which means they meet or exceed Current Good Manufacturing Practice safety regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration.
Price at time of publish: $20
Sizes: 32-ounce spray bottle Key ingredients: Clove, Garlic and Thyme oils
Best For Furniture: Stelucca Amazing Shields Cat Scratch Deterrent
Relatively easy to apply
Provides broad coverage of fabric surfaces
No smells or liquids
Not appropriate for leather or faux leather
Cats can do hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to furniture just by doing what comes naturally to them. Cats scratch to play, mark objects with their scent (with glands in their paws), to keep their nails in top shape and to express emotions, like stress or excitement.
While there are several sprays available meant to prevent scratching, a physical barrier may be the most effective solution. Stelucca Amazing Shields Cat Scratch Deterrent is designed specifically to discourage scratching and protect fabric upholstery.
These transparent, flexible pads can be custom cut to size and bent around corners so you’re sure of the perfect fit. The peel-and-stick application makes it quick and easy to apply. Twist pins offer extra staying power. Although they are capable of being removed and reapplied, just like tape, the sticking power is strongest on the first application so, like a carpenter, measure twice and cut once.
Price at time of publish: $18
Quantity: 6 sheets | Dimensions: 17 x 12 inches
Best Tape: ELK Cat Training Tape
Can stick to cat fur if not properly applied
Whether you use it alone or in combination with a repellent spray, training tape is an excellent way to keep cats off select areas and protect furniture and other surfaces from scratches.
ELK Cat Training Tape helps train your cat because they do not enjoy the sticky feeling of the adhesive. The double-sided sticky tape is clear so you can use it to kitty-proof beds, couches, tables, counter tops and other furnishings. It’s also useful when applied across potted plants to prevent fouling.
The medical-grade adhesive is safe for children and pets. Customers confirm that it will not harm fabric. Perhaps the best part is, once your cat learns to avoid an area, the tape can be removed and may no longer be necessary.
Price at time of publish: $16
Dimensions: 3 inches x 30 yards, 7 mm thickness
Best for Chewing: Rocco and Roxie No Chew Extreme Bitter Spray
Twice as bitter as other bitter sprays
Made in the United States
Also works to deter dogs
Not effective for non-chewing behaviors
Whether your cat is chewing your plants, your furniture or themselves, Rocco and Roxie’s No Chew Extreme Bitter Spray should get them to stop. This simple spray has just four ingredients that include a strong, but safe, bittering agent and calming copaiba oil—an essential oil known for its abilities to soothe inflamed skin. That means this spray can be safely applied directly to your cat’s fur, bandages or wounds (avoid face and genitals). Plus, it’s alcohol-free so it won’t sting when applied.
You can try it with confidence too because this family-owned business offers a satisfaction guarantee.
Price at time of publish: $15
Key Ingredients: Denatonium benzoate (bittering agent), Copaiba oil (calming agent)
Best Motion Activated: Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer
Use on its own or attach multiple sprinklers
May take some time to get the settings just right
For larger areas of your yard and garden, it’s not practical to use repellent spray or sprinkle pellets. That’s where the Orbit Yard Enforcer Motion Activated Sprinkler makes the most sense. Cats generally hate water, and the element of surprise combined with the hissing noise of the spray will surely scare cats away from the area without physically harming them. Some fraidy cats might never try again.
The infrared motion sensor is easily adjusted for sensitivity and range. Settings allow you to run it only at night when visitors are more likely, during daytime only or on constant guard. Its sensing technology learns the difference between trees and animals so although it might be triggered by swaying branches at first, it will quickly dial in its accuracy to only spray unwanted visitors.
The sturdy metal spike provides easy positioning in your yard. The brass hose swivel with passthrough ports allows easy, leak- and corrosion-free connection and the optional addition of expansion hoses and sprinklers for added coverage. Four AA batteries should last about 7,500 on-off cycles.
The duration of the spray is adjustable, using as little as two cups of water with each spray. It can also be used as a regular sprinkler for up to 30 minutes.
Price at time of publish: $64
Dimensions: 6.3 x 6.6 x 12.1 inches | Range: Sensor detects movement over 3,840 square feet with a 120-degree viewing range at up to 40 feet, sprinkler adjustable up to 360-degree spray and up to 35 feet away
Best Electronic: K-II Enterprises Tattle Tale Sonic Pet Training Vibration Alarm
9-volt battery included
Good at keeping cats off surfaces like counters
Loud sound likely to irritate humans as well
K-II Enterprises Tattle Tale Sonic Training Vibration Alarm uses technology that detects vibration on surfaces and then emits a two-second alarm to discourage and deflect your pet. Then it automatically always resets so it’s ready. Customers report that it’s great at keeping cats off furniture, counter tops, and the Christmas tree. It also works well to prevent scratching and clawing of furniture and keeping cats out of flowers and plants.
This automatic alarm is multi-directional so you can hang it, lay it on a flat surface or place it in any off-limits area. While it won’t work for every cat, it works for most and can even be used in combination with repellent sprays.
Price at time of publish: $25
Dimensions: 4.5 x 2 x 1.25 inches
We like the Bodhi Dog 3-in-1 Cat & Kitten Training Aid because it successfully keeps cats away from designated areas while also preventing chewing, scratching and spraying. When you need to cover a larger outdoor area, it’s hard to beat the Orbit Yard Enforcer Motion Activated Sprinkler that harmlessly and effectively combines water, noise and the element of surprise.
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,” cat behaviorist Mieshelle 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.
First think about 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?
The Spruce Pets uses a combination of research, expert insights and testing to determine the best pet products in a wide range of categories. This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde who has had at least two cat and two dog companions in her home for the past 35 years. When researching these brands, Lorraine evaluated the type and health of the ingredients, application methods, and the company’s research and development of the product and business ethics. She relied on years of pet product experience, extensive research and customer and expert reviews.
Lorraine has only the highest of standards for her pets and her family, so she only included products she’d be willing to use in her own home.
She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in biology and a Master’s degree in environmental science with an emphasis on toxicology. Lorraine is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed and environmentally conscious choices to protect their pets, their families and our planet.
Cat behaviorist Mieshelle Nagelschneider of The Cat Behavior Clinic 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.