Does Cayenne Pepper Keep Cats Out of the Garden?

Though adorable, that little kitty could damage your plants.
i David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Are curious neighborhood kitties digging around in your garden or nibbling on your veggies? To naturally repel these feline visitors from the garden, you can use cayenne pepper either sprayed or sprinkled around your plants. Kitties don't like the smell and it shouldn't hurt most plants.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, the chemical that repels cats away from the area. Some commercially available pet repellent sprays use cayenne pepper as a main ingredient, along with other oils cats don't like, such as mustard oil, according to the Humane Society of Huron Valley. You can also make your own spray, mixing a cayenne-based hot sauce or ground flakes with water. The University of Vermont Extension School recommends combining one part cayenne pepper sauce with 16 parts water to spray on plants. The yucky scent, taste and irritating effects of the cayenne peppers should discourage neighborhood kitties from entering, or returning to, your garden.

Applying the Pepper

Cayenne pepper flakes can be sprinkled around the base of your plants and ground into a fine powder to apply to the leaves. Whether dusting your plants with pepper powder, flakes or a cayenne pepper liquid spray, take special care. If it's windy out, you could get this spicy substance blown into your face and eyes, causing painful irritation. Wear some gloves, too, so you don't accidentally touch your face with pepper-laden fingers. To keep the scent potent, apply it at least once weekly or more if it rains often. Rainwater will wash the pepper away, and the only way that the repellent works is if the cats can smell or taste it on the plants.

Benefits to Plants

Cayenne pepper not only deters cats, but also other types of animals including dogs, deer, squirrels and rabbits. It also acts as a natural insecticide against some types of harmful bugs, like spider mites and lace bugs, which can destroy your plants, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. Cayenne pepper is nontoxic and shouldn't affect most types of plants, but it's best to try it out on a few leaves before spraying an entire plant. For edible plants, wash them well before you eat them -- otherwise the pepper will remain on them, giving you an unwanted spicy surprise.

Kitties and Pepper

Some cats won't be affected by the smell of cayenne pepper and it will not deter them from coming into the garden. It can, however, get all over their paws and fur when they walk around your garden. While grooming, these unfortunate felines will rub the spicy substance in their eyes or on their nose, causing them painful irritation, redness and discomfort. Because of this reason, you may want to use other, less potentially cruel methods to deter kitties in your neighborhood or your own furry buddy from getting into your plants.


Other types of kitty deterrents such as orange or lemon peels scattered around your garden and pine-cone mulch may be more effective than cayenne pepper and won't harm any neighborhood felines. If you're worried about kitties munching on potentially toxic plants, use fencing and plant netting to block them from the plants instead of cayenne pepper -- this way they can't get to them at all.

Another option is to plant a kitty garden in a small corner of your yard, away from your main garden. Include some catnip plants and barley grass in this cat-specific area, to provide a safe and more attractive alternative for the felines to nibble on than your other plants.

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