How to Keep Cats Away From Plants

Updated: August 1, 2023


As any cat owner will attest, our feline companions can bring us immense joy and companionship. However, their curious nature and natural instinct to explore can pose challenges, especially when it comes to maintaining a beautiful and thriving garden. For all the green-thumbed enthusiasts out there, the struggle of trying to keep cats away from plants is a common and often exasperating one. Whether it’s the allure of fresh soil, a cozy spot for a nap, or simply a plaything, cats seem to be naturally drawn to the world of foliage.

Preserving the integrity of your garden while allowing your beloved pets to roam freely is a delicate balance that can be achieved through a combination of understanding feline behavior and implementing effective deterrents. This introductory guide aims to provide insight into the reasons behind cats’ fascination with plants and present a range of practical strategies to help protect your garden sanctuary.

To effectively tackle the challenge of keeping cats away from plants, it’s essential to comprehend their behavior. Cats are naturally curious and inquisitive creatures. Their keen senses of smell, hearing, and sight drive them to explore their environment constantly. Moreover, cats possess an innate need to scratch, and potted plants can sometimes provide a tempting substitute for a scratching post.

Additionally, cats are territorial animals, and if your garden is a regular part of their outdoor territory, they may be more inclined to use it for various activities, including hunting and playing. Understanding these underlying instincts can serve as a foundation for devising appropriate solutions.

Why Do Cats Love Plants?

Cats’ love for plants can be attributed to a combination of natural instincts and sensory attraction. Understanding these underlying reasons can help cat owners better manage their pets’ behavior around plants and ensure a harmonious coexistence.

  1. Curiosity: Cats are naturally curious animals. They are drawn to new scents, textures, and environments. When they encounter plants, the various smells and the rustling leaves pique their interest, prompting them to investigate further.

  2. Scent and Smell: Cats have a highly developed sense of smell, which is far more sensitive than that of humans. Plants emit a wide range of scents, some of which are particularly appealing to cats. Certain herbs, flowers, and foliage can release odors that captivate their olfactory senses.

  3. Play and Hunting Instincts: Cats are playful by nature. Potted plants, with their dangling leaves and stems, can easily catch a cat’s attention and engage their hunting instincts. Cats may bat at the leaves or even dig at the soil, simulating their predatory behavior.

  4. Cozy Napping Spots: Many plants, especially those with broad leaves or dense foliage, provide cozy and sheltered spaces that appeal to cats as potential napping spots. The feeling of security and shade provided by the plants can be enticing for a cat seeking a comfortable rest area.

  5. Scratching and Marking Behavior: Cats have a natural need to scratch to maintain the health of their claws and to mark their territory. The texture of certain plant leaves can be satisfying for cats to scratch against, leaving behind their scent as a territorial marker.

  6. Cool and Refreshing: Some cats may be drawn to certain plants, such as grasses, as a way to cool down on hot days or to induce vomiting when they have an upset stomach.

  7. Outdoor Exploration: Cats are curious creatures that love to explore their surroundings. For indoor cats, potted plants may represent a little piece of the outdoors, providing a connection to nature they might not otherwise have.

It’s essential for cat owners to strike a balance between allowing their cats to explore and ensuring the safety of their plants. Creating a designated play area for cats, providing cat-friendly grass, and using deterrents for off-limits plants can help maintain a healthy and happy environment for both cats and plants. Additionally, offering plenty of cat toys and interactive playtime can help divert their attention from the plants and satisfy their need for exploration and stimulation.

Cats Enjoy How Plants Taste

While adult humans generally refrain from tasting everything in their environments, babies are notorious for putting objects in their mouths. Similarly, cats explore their surroundings using their sense of taste. Not all plants will turn out to be tasty for our feline friends, but when they find something they like, you can be certain that your cats will be back for seconds. Some plants can be toxic for cats. However, cats may end up upsetting their stomachs by consuming large amounts of plants that aren’t harmful. As with any health issue, cats that experience obvious discomfort from munching on plants should be examined by a veterinarian.

Cats Appreciate the Texture of Plants

When faced with an upset stomach, cats may resort to chewing on plants as a way to promote movement of fiber through their digestive system. This instinct is observed in many animals and can also be seen in dogs. Moreover, there is evidence suggesting that cats derive enjoyment from the texture of plants, as they often break off some grass and munch on it.

Cats Find Enjoyment in Moving Things  

You have probably come across the online videos of cats chasing a dot of light from a laser pointer with unwavering fascination. Despite undergoing thousands of years of evolution, cats’ hunting instinct remains fully intact. The motion of leaves swaying in the wind triggers their natural hunting response, and it’s not uncommon to witness them clawing at plants in response to this instinct.

How to Keep Your Cats Away From Your Plants

Keeping your cats away from your plants requires a combination of understanding their behavior and implementing effective deterrents. Here are some practical strategies to help protect your plants from your curious feline friends:

  1. Create a Distracting Play Area: Set up a designated play area for your cats with interactive toys, scratching posts, and cozy spots for them to rest. This will divert their attention away from your plants.

  2. Provide Cat-Friendly Grass: Offer cat grass or catnip plants in pots. Cats are attracted to these greens, and providing a safe alternative will satisfy their natural instinct to chew on plants.

  3. Use Repellents: Certain scents are unpleasant to cats and can be used as natural deterrents. Sprinkle citrus peels, coffee grounds, or lavender around your plants to discourage your cats from approaching them.

  4. Use Physical Barriers: Install fencing, netting, or chicken wire around your garden to prevent cats from accessing your plants. You can also use decorative rocks or pine cones as obstacles around the base of the plants.

  5. Try Motion-Activated Devices: Install motion-activated sprinklers or noise devices near your plants. When cats approach the area, the sudden movement or sound will startle them and deter them from coming back.

  6. Apply Commercial Cat Repellents: Many pet stores offer cat repellent sprays or granules that are designed to keep cats away from certain areas. Follow the instructions and apply these products around your plants.

  7. Train Your Cats: Use positive reinforcement techniques to train your cats to stay away from certain areas of your garden. Reward them when they avoid the plants and redirect their attention to their designated play area.

  8. Keep Your Cats Indoors: If you have particularly sensitive plants or are concerned about your cats’ safety, consider keeping them indoors or supervised in a catio (an enclosed outdoor cat area).

  9. Regular Pruning: Trim any low-hanging branches or dense foliage that might tempt your cats to explore or claw at the plants.

  10. Be Patient and Consistent: It may take time for your cats to adjust to the new rules, so be patient and consistent with your training and deterrent methods.

Remember that while these strategies can help keep your cats away from your plants, it’s essential to provide alternative outlets for their natural behaviors. Ensuring your cats have plenty of mental and physical stimulation will contribute to their overall well-being and reduce their interest in your plants.

Choose Plants that Cats Don’t Like

Choosing plants that cats dislike can be an effective way to keep them away from your garden. Here are some plants that are known to be unappealing to cats:

  1. Coleus Canina (Scaredy Cat Plant): This plant releases a strong odor that cats find offensive, deterring them from approaching.

  2. Rue (Ruta graveolens): Rue has a bitter taste and emits a strong scent that cats tend to avoid.

  3. Lavender (Lavandula): While humans often enjoy the fragrance of lavender, cats find its smell unappealing.

  4. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): The strong scent of rosemary is usually disliked by cats.

  5. Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.): Geraniums have a distinct smell that cats tend to avoid.

  6. Marigolds (Tagetes spp.): The scent of marigolds can act as a natural repellent for cats.

  7. Citrus Plants: Cats are generally not fond of the smell of citrus fruits, so plants like lemon, lime, or orange can deter them.

  8. Catmint (Nepeta cataria): Surprisingly, not all cats are attracted to catnip (Nepeta cataria), so some may dislike it.

  9. Scents from Mint Family: Some plants from the mint family, like spearmint or peppermint, can be disliked by cats.

  10. Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus): The snapdragon’s bitter taste may discourage cats from nibbling on it.

Remember that each cat is unique, and some may still show interest in certain plants, even if they are generally disliked by cats. To maximize the effectiveness of these deterrent plants, consider combining them with other strategies like creating a designated play area for your cats and using other repellents to keep them away from your garden.

Make Your Plants Less Appealing to Your Cats

Another effective approach to safeguarding your plants from your cats’ curious claws and teeth is by making them unappealing. Drawing on the knowledge of plants that cats naturally avoid, you can employ this information to your advantage. Applying scents that cats dislike to your plants will act as a deterrent, steering them away from your precious greenery. Mustard or pepper repellent sprays are viable options for this purpose. Alternatively, the citrus fragrance is known to keep cats at bay. Essential oils, onion, and garlic scents are also disliked by cats, and using coffee grounds near your plants can be an effective deterrent. For a convenient solution, consider purchasing anti-cat aromatic sprays from your local pet store. By employing these methods, you can create an environment that your cats will find unappealing, ensuring your cherished plants remain protected.

Put Your Plants Out of Your Cats’ Reach

Creating physical distance between your plants and the resident cats in your home is a straightforward solution. Consider suspending dangling pots from the ceiling using a special rig or placing single shelves high up on walls where your cat cannot reach. However, be aware that by doing so, your plants will be in plain view, tempting your cats to find ways to access them. If you prefer not to constantly engage your cats’ curiosity regarding the plants, you may want to skip this tactic.

Give Your Cats Their Own Plant

If you notice that your cats are particularly attracted to a specific kind of plant, consider getting one specifically for their enjoyment. Purchase a plant that they like and place it in a corner of your room where your cats can indulge in it at their leisure. This way, they will have their own plant to explore and chew on, while your other plants remain safe from their curiosity.

Train Your Cats to Respect Your Plants

Training your cats to respect your plants is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency. Here are some steps to help you achieve this:

  1. Establish a Designated Play Area: Set up a designated area with cat-friendly toys, scratch posts, and cozy spots where your cats can play and explore freely. This will help redirect their attention away from your plants.

  2. Use Positive Reinforcement: Whenever your cats avoid or show little interest in the plants, offer them treats, praise, and affection. Positive reinforcement will reinforce the behavior you want to encourage.

  3. Deter with Unpleasant Scents: Apply scents that cats dislike (e.g., citrus, lavender, or bitter apple spray) to the plants or the areas surrounding them. This will make the plants less appealing to your cats.

  4. Offer Cat Grass or Catnip: Provide cat-friendly plants like cat grass or catnip in pots. These safe alternatives will satisfy their natural urge to chew on plants.

  5. Use Distractions: If you catch your cats approaching the plants, redirect their attention to their designated play area with toys or treats.

  6. Use Verbal Cues: Use consistent verbal cues like “no” or “leave it” when your cats show interest in the plants. Over time, they will associate these commands with not approaching the plants.

  7. Physical Barriers: If necessary, use physical barriers like fencing, netting, or chicken wire to keep your cats away from certain plants.

  8. Monitor and Supervise: Keep an eye on your cats’ behavior around the plants and be ready to intervene if needed. Supervision will allow you to correct any undesirable behavior promptly.

  9. Be Patient: Changing a cat’s behavior takes time, so be patient and don’t get frustrated. Consistency is key to success.

  10. Provide Enrichment: Ensure your cats have plenty of mental and physical stimulation to reduce their interest in the plants. Regular playtime and interactive toys can keep them engaged and content.

Remember, every cat is unique, and some may require more time and effort to learn to respect the plants. By applying these training techniques consistently and with patience, you can create an environment where your cats and plants coexist harmoniously.

Make the Area Near Your Plants a “Minefield”

If placing your plants out of reach or using deterrents hasn’t been effective in keeping your cats away, you can try making the area unpleasant to discourage their access. The idea is not to harm your cats but to create an environment that conditions them to perceive the area around the plants as unfavorable. Similar to the concept of spraying water to deter cats, this approach takes things a step further by employing a startle response.

The intention is to associate a specific object or area with a startling experience, creating a deterrent effect. Just like a young child learning not to touch a hot stove, a mild scare can register as a powerful lesson for cats. You can achieve this by setting up motion-activated devices that emit loud sounds or sudden movements when your cats venture too close to the plants.

It’s important to remember that the goal is to modify behavior, not to cause fear or harm to your cats. The aim is to condition them to avoid the area around the plants and redirect their attention to more suitable areas for exploration and play. With consistent use and patience, this approach can help protect your plants and create a safe, harmonious environment for both you and your feline friends.

Creating a deterrent zone around your flower pot using plastic or tin-foil plates is a clever strategy to keep your cats away. Cats are naturally stealthy and prefer stable footing. By arranging the plates in a way that they will be knocked onto the floor as your cat approaches, you create uncertainty in their footing, prompting them to avoid the area around your plants.

It’s essential to approach this tactic with affection and care for your furry companions. The goal is not to cause harm but to teach them that they must coexist peacefully with your cherished plants. The intention is to foster a safe and respectful environment for both your cats and your plants.

Keep Your Cats’ Litter Box Clean

Another less apparent reason for your cats hanging out near your plants could be related to their litter box. Cats are particular about their bathroom habits, and a clean litter box is crucial for their comfort. If the litter box is not kept clean, they might choose to use the dirt around your plants instead. Additionally, cats express their dissatisfaction by making messes. If their litter box is not maintained properly, they may resort to messing around your plants to get your attention and convey their displeasure.

Choose What’s Most Convenient for You

You can create a harmonious environment in your home by enjoying the company of your cats and decorating with beautiful plants. Whether you choose to modify your cats’ behavior or create distance between them and your plants, you don’t have to compromise on either. Explore the various options available and take the necessary actions to ensure everyone, both you and your furry companions, is happy and content in your living space. With thoughtful consideration and implementation, you can strike a balance that allows for the coexistence of your beloved cats and your cherished plants.

How to Keep Cats Away from Houseplants (Video)

Frequently Asked Question

How can I keep my cats away from my plants?

Keeping cats away from plants can be achieved through various strategies. Some common methods include providing a designated play area for your cats, using scent or texture repellents, setting up motion-activated devices, placing physical barriers, offering cat-friendly alternatives like cat grass, and using positive reinforcement training.

Are there plants that cats dislike?

Yes, there are several plants that cats generally dislike. Some examples include Coleus Canina (Scaredy Cat Plant), rue, lavender, rosemary, geraniums, marigolds, certain citrus plants, catmint (Nepeta cataria), and plants from the mint family like spearmint and peppermint.

Is it harmful to use repellents to keep cats away from plants?

Most commercially available cat repellents are designed to be safe and non-toxic for cats. However, it is essential to use repellents specifically labeled for use around pets. Avoid using chemicals or substances that could be harmful to your cats or plants.

How do motion-activated devices work to deter cats?

Motion-activated devices, like sprinklers or noise-makers, use sensors to detect movement. When a cat approaches the protected area, the device activates, emitting a sudden burst of water or a startling noise, which can startle the cat and discourage them from returning.

Can I train my cats to stay away from my plants?

Yes, you can train your cats to respect your plants. Positive reinforcement training, using verbal cues like “no” or “leave it,” and offering rewards for appropriate behavior can help modify your cats’ behavior and teach them to avoid the plants.

What if my cats are attracted to specific plants?

If your cats are attracted to specific plants, consider getting similar cat-friendly plants for their enjoyment. Place these plants in a designated area where your cats can safely explore and chew on them, redirecting their attention away from your other plants.


In conclusion, keeping cats away from plants requires a combination of understanding feline behavior and implementing effective deterrents. Cats’ natural curiosity and hunting instincts can lead them to explore and potentially damage your cherished plants. However, there are several strategies to create a harmonious environment where your cats and plants can coexist peacefully.

By providing a designated play area for your cats with toys and scratch posts, you can divert their attention away from your plants. Additionally, using scent or texture repellents, such as citrus, lavender, or prickly barriers, can make the area around the plants unappealing to cats.

Michael R

Michael R

I'm a publisher and editor at Cat Guide 101. I imagine that since you’re here, you likely own a cat — or two! — so helping you better understand them is my aim. I'd like to invite you to check out our about page to learn more about the Cat Guide 101 story.

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