What Spice Deters Cats?

Don’t get me wrong, I think cats are charming, but when they choose your garden as their favourite bathroom spot, well, let’s just say it’s less than ideal. So, I’ve turned my trials into your gain, trying out different spices. So, what spice deters cats?

Many spices deter cats, including paprika, pepper (black, white, cayenne), chilli powder, curry powder, garlic powder, cinnamon and even mustard powder. All of these have strong scents that cats usually find unappealing.

What Spices Deter Cats Effectively?

Fortunately, there are actually various spices that work particularly well at deterring cats from your garden. Here are some of the best:


Cats have a sensitive olfactory system, meaning they can pick up on smells far better than humans. When it comes to pepper, be it black, white, or cayenne, the strong, spicy aroma is generally unpleasant to their refined senses, making it a great cat deterrent.

You see, cats use their sense of smell to determine whether an area is safe and suitable for them, and a garden full of pepper is just not very inviting.

Keep in mind that while pepper is effective, it has a downside. If it gets wet, its potency decreases significantly, so remember to reapply after rain or heavy dew.

As for application, a pepper-water spray works wonders. Mix a decent amount of pepper into water and spray it around your garden. Alternatively, sprinkling dry pepper around can also do the trick, just be prepared for more frequent reapplications.

I’ve put together a dedicated guide to using pepper to deter cats.

Does Pepper Deter Cats


Similar to pepper, the potent smell of paprika is typically off-putting for our feline friends.

While it’s not quite as sharp as the smell of pepper, paprika still packs quite the punch for a cat’s sensitive nose. This means sprinkling it around your garden can deter cats from seeing it as their personal playground.

The vibrant red colour of paprika, however, might not blend well with all garden aesthetics, so you might want to consider that before going all in. It also faces the same issue as pepper when it gets wet, so reapplication is essential.

To use it, I’ve found that mixing paprika with coffee grounds deters cats and nourishes the soil. The smell of coffee grounds isn’t as repelling to cats, but it effectively helps distribute the paprika around your garden.

I’ve put together a dedicated guide to using paprika to deter cats.

Mustard Powder

Mustard powder has a potent smell that cats find unpleasant. The same kick that makes mustard a favourite in human dishes is what repels cats.

It’s important to remember, though, that mustard powder can be a bit harsh.

Cats who come into direct contact with it may experience some minor skin irritations, so you want to use it sparingly.

Instead of sprinkling the powder directly, I’ve found that mixing it with some water and a bit of dish soap makes an excellent deterrent spray. The water and soap help distribute the mustard powder more evenly and lessen the chance of irritation.

Plus, this spray also sticks well to leaves and surfaces, giving your garden a layer of protection that lasts.

Does Mustard Powder Deter Cats

Chilli Powder

The kick that we get from chilli powder in our food is the same kick that cats get on their noses, and let me tell you, they are not fans.

The heat of chilli powder, even just the smell of it, is enough to deter cats from your garden.

But a word of caution – make sure you’re careful about where you’re using it, especially if you have other animals or young children who might get it on their hands or paws.

The best method I’ve found is to lightly dust the garden surface with it, focusing on the perimeter and the areas cats are most fond of. If the powder is too concentrated, it can cause discomfort to the cats, and we want to deter them, not harm them.

I’ve put together a dedicated guide to using chilli powder to deter cats.

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Garlic Powder

Most cats don’t like strong, pungent smells, and garlic powder fits that bill. The smell is potent to cats, and a garden sprinkled with garlic powder is less likely to be viewed as an attractive bathroom spot.

However, remember that too much garlic powder might alter the taste of any edible plants you’re growing, so use it sparingly around those areas.

My favourite application method? Mixing garlic powder with water and spraying it around the garden. It’s simple, effective, and easy to reapply as needed.

I’ve put together a dedicated guide to using garlic powder to deter cats.

Does Garlic Powder Deter Cats


Cinnamon’s strong, spicy, sweet aroma is usually a hit with humans, especially around the holiday season. However, for cats, it’s not such a festive smell.

It’s strong enough to be off-putting to their sensitive noses, deterring them from paying a visit to your garden.

One thing to keep in mind is that while cinnamon isn’t harmful to cats, it can cause them to sneeze if they get too close.

As for applying cinnamon, a sprinkling around the edge of your garden can create a spicy perimeter that most cats will prefer to avoid.

But if you really want to up the ante, try mixing cinnamon with a bit of water and some dish soap to create a repellent spray. The soap helps the cinnamon stick to leaves and surfaces, giving you longer-lasting protection.

Curry Powder

Curry powder is a mix of spices, and its exotic, strong smell can effectively deter cats. The specific blend of spices used can affect its potency, so you might need to experiment to see which one works best in your garden.

It’s important to remember that curry powder can stain surfaces, so be cautious when using it around patios or garden furniture.

A straightforward application method is to mix the curry powder with sand or fine gravel. This helps distribute the curry powder evenly around your garden and reduces the chance of staining.

I’ve put together a dedicated guide to using curry powder to deter cats.

The Stronger the Better

If you sniff a spice and it tingles your nose or makes you wince then, chances are, this will work to deter cats.

What Spices Do Not Deter Cats Effectively?

Although no kitchen spices are likely to attract cats, some would be a complete waste of time and money used in the garden as a deterrent. Below are the spices I would avoid trying:


While turmeric is known for its vibrant color and numerous health benefits, it sadly does little to deter cats from your garden.

It seems that turmeric’s relatively mild scent isn’t powerful enough to perturb a cat’s keen sense of smell.

And let’s not forget its intense staining power. I learned the hard way that turmeric can leave a persistent yellow hue on almost anything it touches. So, while you might not have cats in your garden, you could end up with a yellow-stained path or patio instead. Not ideal!


Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds have a distinct, sweet aroma that we humans might find enticing, but it doesn’t quite have the same effect on cats. They don’t seem to find the scent off-putting, so sprinkling your garden with coriander seeds likely won’t discourage any feline visitors.

Plus, there’s another issue to consider: coriander seeds can actually sprout and grow if they find their way into your soil. Unless you fancy a garden full of coriander plants, it might be best to skip this spice.

Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds have a sweet, liquorice-like aroma. While it’s quite a strong scent, cats don’t seem to find it deterring. In fact, some cats might even be curious about the smell.

Plus, fennel seeds can sprout rather easily. I once had an unexpected fennel plant pop up in my garden, and while it was a nice addition, it’s something to be mindful of if you decide to try these seeds as a deterrent.

Unexpected Fennel Plant

Cumin Seeds

Cumin has a warm, earthy scent that’s a staple in many cuisines, but when it comes to deterring cats, it sadly falls short.

Its aroma isn’t potent or irritating enough to deter cats.

Additionally, just like with coriander, if these seeds find their way into fertile soil, they might sprout. This could lead to unwanted cumin plants popping up all over your garden.

Which Spice is Best for Deterring Cats?

So, you have an exhaustive list of the spices that do and do not deter cats. But, which spice is the best for deterring cats? Well, if I had to pick just one it would be…

Chilli Powder

I’ve found the most success comes from using a punchy chilli powder. If you can find a particularly hot variety, then a little will go a long way. All you really need to do is sprinkle it in your soil where you want cats to avoid.

Remember, as with all spices, you will need to keep reapplying it, especially during wet or windy weather.

Should You Use Spices to Deter Cats?

So you know what does and does not work to deter cats from your garden when it comes to choosing a spice. But the question is, should you use spices to deter cats, or is this something worth avoiding?

Are Spices Safe for Cats?

Spices, such as paprika and pepper, will be annoying to cats but should not cause them long-term harm. Generally, they are safe but always err on the side of caution.

Are Spices Toxic to Cats?

Most spices are not toxic to cats when used in small doses. However, when consumed in large doses or regularly, many spices will have adverse effects on cats.

Are Spices Bad for Plants?

Spices shouldn’t cause harm to plants. However, try to limit where you sprinkle them and limit yourself to sprinkling spices around the base of plants.

Are Spices Bad for Wildlife?

Most wildlife will be unfazed by spices. Some mammals, such as squirrels and rabbits, may be put off by spices with heat such as chilli flakes or pepper.


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