What Herbs Repel Cats?

Using herbs as a cat repellent comes with multiple benefits. It’s why we’re huge advocates of using herbs. First, they act as a repellent – that’s why you’re here in the first place, right? Secondly, they look pretty good – especially when you plant a row of vibrant lavender. Thirdly, they provide culinary benefits too from rosemary roasted potatoes to chicken and thyme pie.

But the question is what herbs repel cats effectively? Well, here’s our extensive list for you to try out:


Use Rosemary to Deter Cats

Rosemary is a herb we have written about a lot. The reason herbs work so well is that they are strongly scented which cats, and their sensitive noses, dislike. The other advantage with rosemary is that the leaves can be quite sharp and pointy which can be uncomfortable for cats as they brush by them.

Ultimately, what have you got to lose? You can plant a few rosemary bushes in and around your garden. If they work as a repellent, then great! If, however, they don’t then you’ve still got the benefit of having access to fresh and fragrant rosemary for your cooking.

Lemon Thyme

You probably already know that cats don’t like citrus smells. You also know they don’t like strong herb smells. Lemon thyme combines the two into one plant. You get both the earthy hit of thyme alongside the citrus notes of lemon. It’s a double-whammy and can be effective against pesky cats that won’t stop using your garden as their own personal litter tray.

Lemon Balm

This follows on nicely from lemon thyme. Again, it’s a plant that is packed full of citrus scents which cats immediately are put off by. Much like mint, it can be quite vigorous in the garden so it might be better in a pot. The advantage with a pot, of course, is that you can move it around to cover the area the cat seems to frequent.

Coleus Canina

We have, unsurprisingly, written about Coleus Canina in the past. It is, after all, nicknamed the scaredy cat plant. With a name like that, it should come as no surprise that this plant is pretty good at deterring cats.

As you brush by its leaves, it gives off a pungent odour not too dissimilar to the smell of urine. As you probably know, cats are territorial so this smell of urine makes them think that someone else has marked the territory so they move on – that’s the theory anyway.

If you want to learn more and want to discover just how effective it then read our full guide to Coleus Canina.

Curry Plant

Even some humans are put off by the strong curry scent you get from curry plants as you brush past. As you can imagine, were you to increase the intensity of that smell 10-fold (or more) it would become quite unpleasant. Well, that’s exactly what a cat will experience were it to brush past it.

The smell of a curry plant is quite minor if there is no breeze and/or movement from an animal so plant your curry plants near to where a cat enters and exits your garden to improve the chances of them brushing into it and therefore releasing the curry scent.


Do Cats Like Lavender?

Bright purple spears that attract bees and other wildlife to the garden – why haven’t you planted it already? If you needed yet another reason to plant lavender in your garden then why not use it as a cat deterrent.

Lavender is another strong-scented herb. It’s a perennial so you won’t need to sow new plants every year and it will come back bigger and better each and every year. Unfortunately, of all the herbs on this list, lavender isn’t the most effective. It is worth trying though because it looks beautiful so will give you pleasure either way. It also works well when planted with other herbs on this list such as rosemary.

How to Use Herbs to Repel Cats

The main way to use herbs to repel cats is to plant them. That’s the obvious and easiest way to go about repelling cats. You also, obviously, get the added benefit of herb plants looking, smelling and tasting delicious.

Should You Use Herbs to Deter Cats?

When it comes to using any deterrents, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. These include whether or not the deterrent will do harm to a cat as well as whether or not it will have a negative impact on the environment or other wildlife.

Well, we already know that in terms of the environment you won’t be doing any harm. In fact, with the likes of lavender, you’ll be benefitting it. But what about the cats?

Will Herbs Harm Cats?

There are actually a huge number of herbs which are toxic to cats. Ultimately, this comes down to personal morals. It’s not illegal to grow herbs in your garden which may harm animals just because you have them living next door.

Basil, sage, thyme and rosemary are all safe for cats. However, the list of herbs which can be toxic is extensive. Tarragon, chives, bay, borage, sorrel, lavender in large quantities, lemon verbena, mint and chamomile are all toxic to cats. This tends to only be when they ingest and/or lick it. As cats are not attracted to the smell of most of these herbs the chances of them ingesting it are low.


Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way of using herbs to deter cats. What might work for one cat, probably won’t for another? We’re not in a position to go all Dr Doolittle just yet so you can’t ask your neighbour’s cat what they hate. Instead, you’ll need to go down the trial-and-error route.

The good news is that there are multiple advantages to planting herbs. Even if they don’t work as a deterrent you will still benefit.

Stop Cats Pooping in Your Garden

Read the Cats Banned Definitive Guide to Stopping Cats Using Your Garden as Their Personal Litter Tray

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