Scaring Cats Away. The Sounds That Make Them Flee


Loud and sudden noises can be very alarming and frightening for cats. A noise phobia or sensitivity is common in cats, especially as they have very acute hearing. Understanding why cats may be afraid of noises and how to help them can greatly benefit cat owners. This article will cover the main types of noises that scare cats, reasons for their fear, and effective solutions to help cats gradually get used to noises and overcome their phobia. This information will help cat owners understand their pet’s behavior, improve their quality of life, and strengthen the human-animal bond.

Loud Noises

Intermittent loud noises like vacuums, blenders, and blow dryers can startle cats because of their sensitive hearing ( The sudden loud sounds are jarring to cats, and they may run and hide when they hear them. Appliances like vacuum cleaners produce noises around 70-80 decibels, which is very loud for a cat’s ears ( The abrupt sounds of these appliances turning on can cause a fearful reaction.

Cats have very sensitive hearing, so loud banging or popping noises can be upsetting or alarming. Their hearing range goes up to about 50-60 kHz, far beyond human hearing limits ( Sudden loud noises well within the cat’s audible range can be physically uncomfortable or frightening if they are not expecting them. Intermittent noise from appliances or bangs and pops can put cats on high alert.

High-Pitched Sounds

Cats have extremely sensitive hearing and can detect sounds at much higher frequencies than humans. Their hearing range reaches up to 64 kHz, compared to only 20 kHz for humans. This means high-pitched sounds that are barely perceptible to us can be very irritating and alarming to cats.

Devices that emit ultrasonic frequencies around 25 kHz specifically target cat hearing and are often marketed as cat repellents. These sounds are not only unpleasant but can potentially cause pain and disorientation when the volume is very high. Squeaking toys and hissing noises can also deter cats as they associate these with possible prey or threats.

While ultrasonic devices may seem like an easy fix, they are not always effective. Some cats can get used to the sounds over time. It’s generally better to find and address the root cause of unwanted cat behaviors rather than relying solely on deterrents. But high-pitched sounds may provide temporary relief in some situations.

According to, the range of 25-50 kHz is most likely to repel cats without causing long-term issues if the volume is kept moderate. Note that human ears start to detect sounds above 20 kHz, so check that any ultrasonic device is not loudly audible to people either.

Unfamiliar Sounds

Cats can be wary of strange or unfamiliar sounds in their environment. This is due to their natural instincts to be cautious of potential threats. Cats have very sensitive hearing, so sounds that may not bother humans can be alarming to cats. Note that cats may be cautious of any uncommon or strange sounds in their environment.

Some examples of unfamiliar sounds that may startle cats include doorbells, alarms, sirens, vacuum cleaners, blenders, garbage disposals, and even crinkling plastic bags. The noise doesn’t necessarily have to be loud, just different from what the cat is used to. Even everyday household noises and appliances can be scary if a cat is not accustomed to them.

Sudden sounds like doors slamming, pots and pans banging, or objects being dropped can also frighten cats. Even the sound of an unfamiliar voice can make some cats run and hide. The key is that the sound is not familiar and predictable to the cat.

Cats feel most secure with consistency in their environment. Any new sights, sounds, or smells put them on high alert. With time and positive associations, cats can get used to unfamiliar sounds and no longer perceive them as threatening. But it’s important not to overwhelm cats by introducing too many new experiences at once.

If a cat startles easily or seems fearful of ordinary household noises, it’s a sign they may need help getting comfortable with unfamiliar sounds. Work on gradual desensitization training and providing a predictable routine.

“Cats differ from dogs when it comes to being frightened by noise. Dogs are notoriously afraid of thunder and fireworks, and will often try to escape from the source of the noise. Cats, on the other hand, typically freeze when they hear a loud or unfamiliar sound. It’s rare to see a cat running in panic from a strange sound.” (


Hissing is a natural way for cats to ward off threats and communicate aggression or fear. Recorded cat hisses or robotic cats that make hissing sounds can be effective at scaring off real cats from yards, gardens and other areas. The unfamiliar hissing triggers a cat’s innate fight-or-flight response, signaling danger and causing them to avoid the area.

Motion-activated devices like the Hoont Ultrasonic Cat Repellent or Petsafe SSScat Spray will sense a cat’s movement and emit a loud hiss to startle them. The sudden noise interrupts cats from digging in gardens, jumping on counters, or approaching trash cans.

Studies show recorded predator sounds, like hissing, are more effective than high-pitched ultrasonic sounds at deterring unwanted cat behaviors. The hissing triggers an innate fear response, signaling danger. Used consistently, motion-activated hissing devices can train cats to avoid and retreat from undesirable areas.

Aluminum Foil

Cats are often startled by the sound of aluminum foil crunching or rattling. According to research from Purrfect Fence, the high-pitched crinkling sound aluminum foil makes when moved or crunched can reach into the ultrasonic range that is too high-pitched for human ears to detect. However, a cat’s sensitive hearing allows them to hear these high-pitched sounds. The unfamiliar and sudden rattling sound surprises cats and deters them from jumping onto surfaces covered in aluminum foil.

As explained by The Spruce Pets, aluminum foil does not prevent cats from jumping on counters and other furniture simply by its presence alone. It is the sudden noise the foil makes when a cat steps on it or brushes up against it that startles them and triggers their instinct to retreat. Strategically placing pieces of aluminum foil on furniture and countertops allows it to make noise when disturbed, scaring cats away. The sharp noise discourages cats from returning to that area.

Citrus Smells

Citrus scents from fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits are often very effective at repelling cats. The strong citric acid smell is unpleasant and overwhelming to a cat’s sensitive nose. Simply placing citrus peels around plants, doorways, furniture and other areas you want to protect can help deter cats. You can also use citrus-scented sprays and oils to create barriers. However, research shows that cats can become desensitized with long-term exposure, so it’s best to rotate different scents. Some studies found lemon and orange scents worked better than lime. Only use 100% pure food-grade oils if using citrus essential oils, as chemical-laden oils may harm cats. Overall, the powerful aroma of citrus fruits creates an unpleasant environment that keeps most cats away.


Other Smells

Cats tend to dislike strong fragrances like lavender, peppermint or perfume as well. The strong scent of oils like lavender and peppermint can be overwhelming for a cat’s sensitive sense of smell and act as a deterrent. According to Rover, lavender and peppermint are two of the top smells cats dislike.

Perfumes and colognes with potent fragrances can also repel cats. Cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, so scents that seem mild to us can be overpowering for them. The foreign smells may make cats wary of an area.

In general, unfamiliar smells are a good cat repellent as they disrupt their normal territory. Strong herbal or floral scents tend to be the most effective at keeping cats away.

Cat Repellent Sprays

One common method for deterring cats is to use commercial cat repellent sprays. These sprays contain chemicals and scents designed to repel cats and prevent them from scratching furniture, urinating in unwanted areas, etc. Some popular and effective cat repellent spray products include:

Pet MasterMind Cat Spray (source) – This spray uses natural ingredients like peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, and lemongrass oil to create an unpleasant scent that cats dislike. It can be safely sprayed on furniture, carpets, drapes and more. Reviews indicate it is effective at deterring scratching and discouraging cats from undesirable areas.

Feliway Spray (source) – Feliway mimics cat pheromones to give cats a sense of familiarity and calmness. It can be used to prevent urine marking in the home and discourage scratching. The pheromones provide a feeling of contentment.

In general, cat repellent sprays use scents, pheromones and plant oils to make areas smell unpleasant and unfamiliar to cats. They offer a humane way to train cats and protect home furnishings. However, finding the right formula takes some trial and error based on a cat’s preferences and behaviors.


In summary, the most effective noises for deterring cats include high-pitched sounds, hissing sounds that mimic other cats, and unfamiliar loud noises. Specific deterrents that produce these types of noises include ultrasonic devices, motion-activated sprinklers, compressed air sprayers, and hissing tape recordings. The key is to startle cats with noises they don’t like or find threatening. This will cause them to avoid yards, gardens, and other areas. Consistency is important as well – employing these sound deterrents regularly will train cats to stay away. While loud noises may initially seem harsh, they are a humane way to keep cats from places they should not be without having to trap or harm them. Using sound repellents is often the best solution for deterring stray and feral cats humanely.

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