Lemon Spray. Does It Actually Keep Cats Away?


Having cats around can provide benefits like pest control, but cats can also cause damage by digging up gardens, spraying, fighting with other cats, or spreading diseases. Many homeowners want to find humane ways to keep cats away from certain outdoor areas or rooms inside the home. One potential solution for deterring cats is using lemon-scented sprays.

Cats have a strong sense of smell, so strong scents like citrus may help repel them. Lemon spray is easy to make at home with natural ingredients. It can be applied around gardens, yards, or indoors. This article will cover why lemon scents deter cats, how to make lemon spray, and tips for using it effectively.

How Cats Are Deterred

Cats tend to dislike strong smells and loud noises. Their sense of smell is highly developed, so strong scents can easily overwhelm and disturb them. Citrus smells, in particular, are very off-putting to cats. According to some sources, cats find the smell of lemon and other citrus fruits alarming and inhospitable [1]. The strong citric acids in these fruits sends signals to cats’ brains that the area or object is not a safe place to be.

Cats also dislike loud sounds. Their sensitive hearing means sudden or abrasive noises like shouting, clapping, whistles, or alarms cause irritation or distress. Cats interpret these noises as alarming or threatening. Using loud sounds is another way to make an area undesirable for cats to linger [2].

Why Lemon Scent Repels Cats

Cats have a very strong sense of smell that is about 14 times better than humans. Their sense of smell is one of their most important senses and helps them detect prey and avoid danger in their environment (Cats Protection, 2018). Cats have a strong aversion to citrus scents, such as lemon, likely because the strong aromas are unpleasant and overwhelming for their sensitive noses.

Studies show that cats have an inherent dislike of citrus scents like lemon, orange, lime and grapefruit. The strong citrus smell acts as a natural feline repellent that cats instinctively avoid (Rover, 2023). When cats encounter the potent citrus aroma, they tend to steer clear of the area to escape the unpleasant odor. Lemons and other citrus fruits contain citric acid and essential oils like limonene that create an intensely tart, tangy scent that cats find offensive and alarming.

Making a Lemon Spray

It’s easy to make a homemade lemon spray to repel cats from yards, gardens, furniture, and other areas. Here are the steps:

  1. Gather the ingredients: lemon juice, water, and optional add-ins like essential oils or vinegar. For a standard spray bottle, mix 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts water.
  2. Pour the lemon juice and water into a spray bottle. Shake well to combine. For extra repellent power, add 5-10 drops of lemon essential oil. You can also add a splash of white vinegar.
  3. Spray around the edges of the yard, on garden walls, or directly onto furniture and areas you want to deter cats from. The strong citrus scent will naturally keep cats away.
  4. Reapply the spray after rain or as needed. For best results, spray daily for a week to establish a strong scent barrier.

The lemon spray can also be diluted and used to wipe down surfaces. Start with a 50/50 mix of lemon juice and water. Wipe on and let dry. This works well for furniture, door mats, and walls.

For more homemade cat repellent recipes see: 5 Ways to Make Homemade Cat Repellent

Applying the Lemon Spray

When applying a homemade lemon spray cat repellent, focus on areas where the cat likes to spend time or areas you want to deter them from. These areas may include:

  • Furniture like couches, chairs, curtains, etc. Lightly spray the furniture, avoiding saturation.
  • Carpets or rugs where the cat scratches or pees. Spray a light coating.
  • Potted plants that the cat is digging in. Spritz the soil surface.
  • Garbage cans or other surfaces the cat jumps on.

According to WikiHow, you’ll want to reapply the lemon spray twice per day for two weeks to establish a strong scent barrier. After that, apply once per day or every other day to maintain the smell that keeps cats away.

Focus on spraying the repellent around the perimeter of the surfaces you want to protect. The strong citrus scent acts as a natural boundary that cats don’t like crossing.

Test the spray in inconspicuous areas first and monitor your cat’s reaction. Every cat responds differently based on their personality.

Avoid spraying lemon repellent directly on houseplants, as the acidity can harm some plants. And prevent spray from getting in your cat’s face or eyes.

Other Citrus Scents

According to the experts at Litter-Robot, citrus scents, such as orange, lime, and grapefruit, are also thought to deter cats (source). The strong citrusy smell overwhelms their senses and creates an environment they want to avoid. Much like lemon, other citrus fruits contain oils that cats find unpleasant. Using sprays or peels from oranges, limes, or grapefruits can help repel cats from specific areas.

Commercial Cat Repellents

There are several commercial cat repellent products on the market that contain lemon or other citrus scents that can help deter cats. Some popular options include:

Bodhi Dog Bitter Lemon Spray – This spray contains lemon extract and oils that create an unpleasant bitter taste to deter chewing and licking. It can be sprayed directly on objects and areas cats are nibbling.

Nature’s Mace Cat Repellent Spray – Made with citronella, lemongrass, peppermint and other natural essential oils. The strong scent helps repel cats from yards, gardens, furniture and more.

There are also cat repellent granules and powder products that contain lemon scent such as PestBye Natural Cat Repellent. These can be sprinkled around areas you want to deter cats from. The citrus smells keep cats away without harming them.

When using commercial cat repellents, be sure to read and follow label directions. Apply them safely away from food surfaces and avoid spraying directly at pets. Choose humane cat deterrents that will not hurt cats but will make areas unappealing to them.

Other Cat Deterrents

In addition to citrus scents, there are some other options for deterring cats naturally. These include:

  • Motion-activated sprinklers or noisemakers – These will startle cats when they enter an area, teaching them to avoid it.
  • Mothballs or ammonia-soaked rags – Cats dislike these strong odors, but they can also be toxic so use caution (1).
  • Foil or plastic carpet runners upside down – The texture deters cats from walking on it.
  • Vinegar, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco or mustard – The smell of these substances turns cats away (2).
  • Scattering branches, pinecones, gravel or sticks – Cats don’t like walking on uncomfortable textures.

It’s best to use multiple deterrents together, moving them around periodically so cats don’t get used to them. Ensure any methods are safe for children, pets and local wildlife too.

When to See a Vet

While using deterrents like lemon spray can help modify some unwanted cat behaviors, persistent issues may require a visit to your veterinarian. Certain behaviors like urinating outside the litter box, aggression, destructive scratching, or excessive vocalizing can sometimes indicate an underlying medical issue. Some medical causes for problematic cat behaviors include:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney disease
  • Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (feline dementia)
  • Pain due to arthritis or other issues
  • Hyperthyroidism

Your vet can perform exams, lab tests, and other diagnostics to check for illness and rule out any medical factors. They may also refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist who can provide targeted treatment plans and behavior modification guidance. Getting to the root cause of the behavior through medical and behavioral expertise can help resolve persistent problems that don’t improve with simple deterrents.


In summary, lemon spray can be an effective and humane way to deter cats from yards, gardens, and other areas where they are unwanted. The strong citrus scent of lemons is unappealing and even aversive to many cats. By making a homemade spray with lemon juice and other repellent ingredients like vinegar, you can create an easy, safe, and affordable cat deterrent. Regular applications around the perimeter of the area you want to protect should encourage cats to avoid that space. It’s best used alongside other humane tactics like motion-activated sprinklers. When used properly and safely, lemon spray serves as one more tool in the kit of gentle cat deterrents.

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