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4 min read / 21 September 2023 / yasmin sharp

Using Citronella Oil as a Cat Repellent

Learn how Citronella Oil can help you keep cats away from your garden and home.

50ml Amber Glass Bottle of Citronella Essential Oil balanced sideways on the back of a hand

Not everyone is a fan of cats, especially if you don’t own one and they make a habit of coming into your garden, knocking down plant pots and leaving their bodily waste behind.

The good news is that using a citronella spray for cats could give you a harmless way of making sure they know where they are welcome.

We look at how effective citronella oil is as a cat repellent and give you some ideas of how you can use it to keep unwanted kitties away from your property.

Do cats like citronella?

Citronella has a very strong scent that cats do not tend to enjoy. A cat has over 200 million odour sensors in their noses, compared to just 5 million for humans, which makes them far more sensitive to particular smells. And it’s not just citronella they do not like, as cats also try to avoid contact with any citrus plants, as well as rosemary and thyme.

Ginger cat strolling through a forest

Does citronella repel cats?

Citronella essential oil can be very effective at repelling cats, acting as a natural deterrent to remind them they are not welcome in a particular space. The oil is an extract of lemongrass, producing a strong citrusy scent that we as humans may enjoy, whilst cats usually hate.

There are a few different ways you can use citronella or citrus to repel cats. Placing lemon peels in the soil is an easy option, allowing the scent to travel through the surrounding air so cats know to stay clear. You could also try the same with orange, lime or grapefruit peels.

The added bonus of using lemon peels in the soil is that they also act as a natural fertiliser. Over time, the peels will start to naturally decompose in the soil, so you won’t have to dig deep to pull them back out.

Dried and powdered citrus peels is another alternative that enables you to sprinkle it across different areas of the garden. Rain can wash this away, so you will have to replace it if you sprinkle during very wet periods of the year.

The other way you can use citronella or other citrus oils is to make your own homemade spray. This is perhaps the most convenient method of all, as you can spritz it far and wide across the garden, including pathways, fences and plants.

How to make citronella oil cat repellent

To make your own citronella oil cat repellent, follow the instructions below:

  1. Take 200 ml of distilled water and add to a glass spray bottle.
  2. Add drops of citronella essential oil to the water.
  3. Replace the cap on the bottle.
  4. Give the bottle a good shake.

The oil and water will not stay mixed, so you will have to give the bottle a shake every time you want to use it.

You can also make your own citronella candle by adding 3-4 drops to a plain candle before igniting it. Doing this with a group of candles will create a strong enough scent to ward off cats.

50ml Amber Glass Bottle of Citronella Essential Oil

Is citronella toxic to cats?

As is true of nearly all essential oils, citronella can be toxic to cats if they consume it in large quantities. This is also true of dogs and other household pets, so if this is a concern, using a powder or spray deterrent is probably the best option for you.

What other scents can you use to repel cats?

If you are unable to buy citronella essential oil, there are some other things you can try. Cats are not big fans of vinegar, as the strong acidic smell is often too powerful for their noses. So, instead of using citronella in your spray, simply replace it with vinegar, and it can be just as effective.

A more surprising scent that cats do not like is bananas. They generally do not like the smell of the fruit, which is why some gardeners plant banana trees in their own backyards.

Pepper is another good natural cat deterrent, so you can simply sprinkle it in places they are most likely to visit. You can also make your own spray using seasonings that will work in the same way as a citronella spray.

Black and white illustration of a citronella bunch

Using citronella oil for cats gives you an effective and natural way to keep them away from your lawns and precious flowers and plants. And because they are not fans of citrus in general, you can use different peels, powders and sprays as a deterrent. Making a citronella spray for cats is easy, as you only need distilled water, a glass spray bottle and citronella oil, and it allows you to cover fences, pathways and flowers with a scent cats will do anything to avoid.

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