7 plants that repel cats and keep them out of your yard

Cat in backyard
Cat in backyard (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Cats are adorable animals, however, when it comes to our yards, they’re known to be destructive. 

Not only do they dig up plants or flower beds, but will leave smelly messes behind! And if you often have stray cats wandering into your outdoor space, it can become frustrating to clean up. 

Luckily, there are certain plants that can help to repel cats and keep them out of your yard. Much like other unwanted pests such as mice, snakes, or even spiders, felines are sensitive to smell, and dislike acidic, aromatic scents. They also steer clear of plant leaves with pointy or textured shapes, which makes it uncomfortable for them to trample over. 

What’s more, these plants are the easiest and least expensive way of protecting your beautiful yard. So, if you want to enjoy the warm weather in a cat-free zone, check out these 7 plants that repel cats and keep them out of your yard.

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1. Lavender 

Lavender plant

Lavender plant (Image credit: Shutterstock)

With its pretty, purple flower and distinct scent, lavender is popular for its fresh, calming properties. But while the lingering scent is pleasant around our homes, it’s repulsive to cats. This is down to a non-toxic compound called linalool, which is an essential component usually found in insect repellants.

These hardy, evergreen flowers can be planted all year round, and it’s best to use tall varieties to shield your borders. This should prevent cats from jumping over to get to your flower beds. In addition, this drought-tolerant plant can last for prolonged periods without water, and can even survive bouts of frost.

If you don’t have access to fresh lavender, you can make a homemade spray by mixing one part lavender essential oil to three parts water in a spray bottle.Then spray in areas around the yard where you want to keep cats away from. 

The powerful fragrance should be enough to keep wandering felines at bay. In fact, lavender is effective for keeping most common pests at bay including spiders, rodents, flies and ants.  

2. Lemongrass/citronella 

Citronella oils

Citronella oils (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Similarly, lemongrass is a tropical, grass-like plant known for its fresh, citrusy scent. And while this fragrance is pleasant, this can be too strong for cats and will keep them away.

Most gardeners use lemongrass in their garden beds, or you can grow or place lemongrass plants outdoors to ward off cats. Since it’s a tropical plant, it thrives in a hot environment with full sun and temperatures never dipping below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. What’s more, it’s a very low maintenance plant, only requiring regular watering in hot months. However, when planting in a pot, it’s advisable to find a size that is at least 12 inches across and use a high-quality potting soil.

In addition, if you mix lemongrass extract oil with other essential oils, and spray it around the yard, this will be even more potent. You can also purchase citronella oil separately, much like this Handcraft Citronella Essential Oil ($9, Amazon). Again, lemongrass and citronella are the most effective forms of repellents for rodents, mosquitos and other common pests. So it’s a worthwhile investment!  

3. Rosemary 


Rosemary (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re growing a herb garden, rosemary is another common cat-repelling plant. And while this aromatic herb may be a delicious garnish for our dishes, cats will turn up their noses at the overwhelming fragrance.

What’s more, rosemary is easy to grow indoors in small pots, and are hardy perennial plants. Simply water it, repot occasionally, and your potted plant will last long. It’s best to place these around your yard, balconies or any other locations where you spot cats getting into your property. 

Alternatively, you can make your own repellent spray. Simply fill a clean spray bottle with ¾ water, add a few drops of dish soap, and 10 drops of rosemary essential oils. Replace the lid and shake well before spraying in ‘cat-zones’ around the yard — the strong fragrance should keep them out. 

4. Oregano 


Oregano (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Similarly, oregano is another aromatic herb repulsive to cats. In addition, this herb contains a natural chemical compound called carvacrol, which is known to irritate the respiratory system of cats. It isn’t any wonder why they tend to steer clear of the areas where oregano is growing. 

What’s more, oregano is easy to grow, and performs well in free-draining soil types and conditions. Ideally, plant in terracotta pots and  they will thrive under partial or complete sunlight. Or you can simply sprinkle dried oregano herbs around those ‘trouble’ areas in your yard. 

Bear in mind that oregano is toxic to cats if ingested, however, the smell should be enough to keep them away. 

5. Geraniums 


Geraniums (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Geraniums will not only add a burst of color to your yard, but will also protect it from cats. In fact, these blooms have a dual purpose. Not only will the pleasant, floral scent offend cats, but geraniums have thorny leaves. These prickly leaves make it difficult and uncomfortable for cats to walk on — making it the ideal deterrent.

Vibrant geraniums are easy to grow in all soil types (except wet), and thrive in the sun or partial/light shade. They tend to be low-maintenance plants, but regular deadheading can help prevent disease and increase healthy growth. Other prickly plants, include roses, blackberry bushes or holly, to keep felines at bay. 

6. Mint or Peppermint 


Peppermint (Image credit: Shutterstock)

These plants are commonly known for their fresh fragrance, but cats hate such scents. In particular, peppermint and spearmint, as these tend to be the strongest. For that reason, grow these fragrant herbs in your backyard, or place them in pots to deter cats. 

Alternatively, you can create a homemade solution by diluting a few fresh mint leaves inside a spray bottle of water. Allow the leaves to ‘brew’ in the solution before spraying around various areas or entry points in your yard. Peppermint is also effective at repelling fruitflies if you ever have an infestation.  

7. Pennyroyal


Pennyroyal (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Pennyroyal, also known as ‘pudding grass’, is another fragrant flower that cats find repulsive. With their beautiful, purple stalks, this flower is actually the smallest of the mint family. This explains why it gives off a powerful, spearmint scent that felines steer clear of. 

It’s worth noting that pennyroyal oil can be toxic to cats and dogs when ingested. However, the smell alone will be enough to drive stray cats away — and keep your yard intact! 

Other scents that repel cats 

  • Cinnamon 
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Garlic 
  • Pine cones 
  • Orange peels
  • Pampas grass
  • Blackthorn

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Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!