Plants That Are Used to Repel Cats

Some cats chew on outdoor plants and use potted plants as a litter box.
i A cat laying in the garden. image by Saskia Massink from

Your kitty or the neighborhood’s outdoor cats may be driving you crazy, digging in the garden and getting where they shouldn't be. You may be able to surprise feline visitors who think the world is their playground. While no plant is 100 percent guaranteed to work, several have cat-repelling properties.

Coleus Canina

Native to Germany, this plant is hated by cats and dogs alike. An annual bedding plant, Coleus canina typically grows no taller than 2 feet. These plants produce dark green leaves and small blue or purple flowers, which makes them an attractive addition to the garden. Coleus canina works well when planted as a hedge around gardens and landscaped areas as a physical border to keep cats out. The leaves also produce an odor that felines find repellent. When cats rub against the leaves, it activates the odor.

Ruta Graveolens

Ruta graveolens, more commonly called rue, is often effective in deterring cats. This shrub typically grows between 2 and 3 feet tall and produces blue-ish leaves. The fragrance rue produces is offensive to the sensitive noses of most cats, so growing it in or around the garden can help keep cats away. To repel cats from certain indoor areas, try sprinkling fresh rue leaves in the area or keep a small pot of it in the house. Wear gardening gloves when using rue, because contact with the skin may cause blistering. Consumption of this herb by humans in other than small doses may cause vomiting, confusion and convulsions.

Essential Oils

Essential oils including lavender, eucalyptus and lemongrass are used in natural cat repellents. Growing some of these herbs in your garden or in small pots may help to deter cats, because cats tend to dislike the strong fragrances these plants produce. Try planting lemongrass or citronella grass as a border around your garden or distribute small pots of lavender throughout your home or garden. Geraniums are also known to produce a sharp odor that cats find offensive, so adding these plants to your garden can not only add color to your yard but it could help deter cats as well.

Catnip as a Distraction

Preventing your cat from digging in the garden or from using your potted plants as a litter box may be as simple as luring him away from the area using catnip. Many cats find catnip (Nepeta cataria), a lively grower in the mint family, irresistible. When you break the leaves or stems of this plant, it produces an odor that causes some cats to go into a frenzy, licking and chewing on the plant or consuming it completely. To use catnip as a distraction, try sprinkling a few leaves of fresh catnip in an area away from the garden such as a sandbox, where it is more appropriate for your cat to relieve himself.


As an alternative to adding live plants to your home or garden, several plant-related products are just as effective in deterring cats. Citrus scents, though fresh and pleasing to the human nose, are sharp and overpowering to cats. To deter cats from your garden or from certain areas in your home, try sprinkling fresh citrus peels or spritz a little lemon juice. You can use cayenne pepper, in powder form or combined with water, in the same way. As physical deterrents, try sprinkling pine cones at the base of your garden plants or use potted cacti in your home - stepping on the prickly points of a pine cones or cactus once may be enough to prevent your cat from returning to that area.

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