What Can I Spray On My Plants To Keep Cats Away?

two cats eating cat grass from a pot on a kitchen floor

Is your cat chewing on your plants? Are you worried that the plant is toxic for cats or is your cat just destroying a pretty plant? 

You might have wondered what can I spray on my plants to keep cats away? 

A deterrent that could be sprayed on your plant would be really useful and we have a number of cat-safe deterrent sprays that you can use to save your plants whether they are indoor plants or plants out in your garden.

Check out these homemade options, a few commercial options, and then some of the other simple tactics you can employ to deter cats from destroying your plants!

Dilute Vinegar

Cats have a sense of smell that is 14 x greater than ours so some odors that are innocuous to us are really strong and offensive to your cat! Vinegar is one of those smells! Most households have vinegar and the type of vinegar you use is really irrelevant.

What you need to do is create a vinegar spray. For this, you can dilute the vinegar with water in a three parts water to vinegar solution and this should be strong enough to deter your cat without being too strong for your plant.

Spray the vinegar all over and monitor the results. If you are using this on outdoor plants be aware you are probably going to have to use the spray on a regular basis to first build up the deterrent and also because the vinegar will be washed off in rain and will naturally lose potency over a period of time. With house plants, the vinegar will probably last longer but the aroma might be off-putting to humans!

half a lemon placed on a squeezer ready to squeeze juice

A Citrus Spray

Cats don’t like citrus. It doesn’t really matter what type of citrus you use, oranges, limes, or lemons all work just as well. You can create a homemade spray by either steeping juice and peels in simmering water and allow to cool and stew overnight or by using essential oils – think citronella or lemon grass.

If you go the essential oil route be aware that essential oils can be dangerous for cats in undiluted concentrations as their livers do not have the ability to process the phenols as ours do. 

If using essential oils use a 1 part oil to 3 parts water dilution to stay safe but remain effective.

With steeped fruit and peels you don’t have to worry about concentration. 

The best thing about the citrus options compared to the vinegar option is that most people find citrus smells to be a positive smell around the house that represents cleanliness so you won’t get any funny looks – vinegar tends to be an unexpected smell around the home!

a glass with cut flowering lavender in it

A Lavender Spray

Cats don’t like lavender, which is curious because there is nothing seemingly negative about the smell of lavender. But, if you could smell lavender like a cat, then at high concentration it may prove too much to take!

A lavender spray can either be made by steeping lavender picked wild from your garden or by using essential oil. As lavender doesn’t grow all year round the essential oil method may be the best option for a year-long deterrent!

As with the citrus essential oils, you need a 1 to 3 parts mix and then liberally spray over the plants you want to protect.

Eucalyptus Spray

Eucalyptus is another one of those odors cats just don’t want to be around. Unfortunately, your only option with this lies in using an essential oil that makes it slightly harder to use at home than vinegar, citrus, or even lavender.

However, mixed up using the 1 to 3 parts water formula should produce a spray that your cat finds awful and will soon have them avoiding the area as much as possible or at least stop them from chewing on your plant!

Peppermint Spray

Cats don’t like peppermint, which is odd because they seem to love catnip, which is also from the mint family. But this is good for us because peppermint is not in the least bit offensive to human noses!

Again, like eucalyptus, you are probably going to have to go down the essential oil route here unless you just happen to have some growing in your garden already that you can steep into a spray.

Mustard Spray

Now with mustard, I can completely understand why cats would not want to be anywhere near the stuff, although I love it. 

Everyone has probably had a bit of mustard on beef at one time which has proven to be an unexpected eye-watering experience. I imagine this must be how cats feel when their hyper-sensitive nose gets a load of mustard – their eyes must water and they think better of it!

Luckily with mustard, you don’t need to have essential oils to hand. Just mix in a spoon of mustard – the stronger the better, with water and spray away.

If you really wanted to go to town on this option you could mix in some pepper, garlic, and cinnamon to make a very “punchy” deterrent, but really the mustard alone should suffice!

a pot of rosemary against grey background

Rosemary

Rosemary is another relatively pleasant aroma that your cat will find off-putting. Many gardeners will use rosemary as a companion plant to keep cats away from their favorite plants in the garden or to deter cats from digging and spraying in certain areas of the garden. 

You can use it as a deterrent spray by either steeping it or using essential oils of rosemary.

Either way, you should be able to teach your cat to stay away from plants you are looking to protect. The one in three parts water formula will work with the oil but the steeped rosemary option is the most risk-free for your cat whilst still being effective.

Cinnamon

Cats don’t like cinnamon. You can use cinnamon in a diluted essential oil spray or by creating some cinnamon-infused water by stewing up some cinnamon sticks. You could use the solution alone or you can mix it with other deterrents to make an absolute stinker of a deterrent!

Buy A Commercial Spray

If all this sounds like too much trouble and you simply want to order, receive and spray then there are a whole selection of commercial cat repellent sprays on the market that are plant-friendly. 

They are generally marketed as cat deterrent sprays for keeping spraying cats away but they can work well if sprayed on plants.

Check out Nature’s Mace – these are the market leaders, but there are loads of options to choose from that all work to some degree. Most of the time these commercial mixtures are simply industrial-scale versions of the homemade sprays or combinations of the homemade sprays. Nature’s Mace for example uses peppermint oil, lemongrass oil, garlic, vinegar, citric acid, and water in its formulation so you can see the similarity with homemade sprays.

a wide eyed tabby cat peering through a grassy houseplant

Other Tactics To Protect Plants

If sprays don’t cut it and you really want an extra line of defense, you can add an extra twist by leaving citrus peels, coffee grounds, or pepper grounds around the base of your favorite plants. The cost is minimal and these ingredients won’t harm plants or wildlife so they can help act as a further deterrent.

Final Words

Whilst sprays can help, remember that you are going to have to commit to a regular regime of spraying.  Cats are going to need to be deterred several times before they get the message and rainfall, dew and wind can all make sprays fairly short-term deterrents. You are going to need to really spray for a few weeks if you are going to deter the local cat population. If you need to protect your garden you can read more here about keeping cats away from your home.