8 Tips and Tricks to Keep Cats Out of Houseplants

8 Tips and Tricks to Keep Cats Out of Houseplants

Meta: Are you a cat owner that can’t seem to keep your cat out of your houseplants? This guide contains all of the tips and tricks you need to know to fix it.

Cats are one of the most popular pets in the world and for a good reason. They make great companions and are some of the most independent and creative pets around. Unfortunately, cats often love to play with and chew up plants. 

If you’re a cat owner and you want to get houseplants, you’ll need to consider how your cat will adjust. Ignore your cat around your plants, and your furry friend might devour them! Thankfully, there are some simple tips and tricks you can use to alleviate the issue.

This guide explains some of the most popular methods that cat owners use to protect their houseplants. Read on to find out how you can end your cat issues and keep your houseplants beautiful!

How to Keep Cats Out of Houseplants

There are many different ways to keep your cat out of your houseplants. Some of the techniques listed here are perfectly safe, while others may irritate you or your cat. 

Different cat breeds have different tolerances for specific substances. Before you implement any method discussed below, carefully evaluate whether or not it may cause any unintended consequences!

If you’re struggling to keep your cat out of your houseplants, you could also use multiple methods at once. Combining different strategies will be a more effective deterrent to your cat. As always, make sure that every technique you use is safe for you, your cat, and your plants.


tangerines citrus

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

If your cat keeps invading your houseplants, protecting them with a strong smell is a high first line of defense. Cats hate certain smells, and won’t go near any plants that smell bad to them. Luckily for us, humans, certain scents that cats dislike are actually quite pleasing!

One scent that cats particularly dislike is citrus. If you have any lemons, oranges, limes, or even grapefruits lying around your house, this is a quick and easy fix. Mix some citrus juice into water and spray it on the leaves and pot of your plant. Make sure that you cover the entire perimeter of the plant and don’t leave any gaps!

You can make the mix as strong or as weak as you want. Some cats will get the message and stay away with just a hint of citrus, while others may require a stronger scent to avoid your plants. 

No matter how much citrus juice you need to mix in, it’s a simple and effective way to stop your cats from chewing up your houseplants. As a bonus, the citrus scent will make your house smell lovely!

Pure citrus juice will deter cats, and citrus juice diluted with water will work as well. However, citrus oil extracts can be dangerous for your cat. Don’t use citrus-scented soaps, shampoos, cleaners, or other solutions to try and keep your cat out of the plants. It could hurt them if they inhale too much.

If you don’t want to spray juice around your home, you can also use citrus peels as a deterrent. Peel an orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, or other citrus plant and place the skins in the plant’s soil. Working the peels underneath the first layer of soil will help keep them stable and prevent your cat from removing them. 

Citrus sprays and peels won’t harm your plant — in fact, the nutrients from the peels may even help rejuvenate the soil for your houseplants! This solution is a win-win.

Chili Pepper and Flakes

chilli pepper

Image by Simon Steinberger from Pixabay 

Like citrus, cats also strongly dislike spicy scents. You may be able to keep your cats away from your houseplants by sprinkling some spicy aromas around the base and leaves of your plants. Cayenne pepper is a standard recommendation along with red chili flakes. Ultimately, any pungent smell should prevent your cat from chewing on your plants.

If you choose to use spice as a cat deterrent, make sure that you cover the entire perimeter of the plant. Sprinkle some chili pepper or flakes on top of the leaves of the plant. Placing a ring around the base of the pot will keep your cat further away.

However, you should be careful not to overdo it with the spice! Some breeds of cat may react negatively to extra-spicy scents; the compounds in chilis can irritate the skin, nose and airway tracts of many cats.  


garlic spice

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

If you don’t have any citrus or spice on hand, you can also use garlic water to repel your cats from your houseplants. Take some minced garlic and mix it with water, then spray the solution around your houseplant. 

This trick is entirely non-toxic for your cat and your plants. Unfortunately, it can make your house smell like garlic! If you have a lot of houseplants or don’t like the smell, it’s best to find another solution.

In a similar vein to garlic water, some websites online recommend vinegar to keep your cats out of plants. However, vinegar is highly acidic. Pouring vinegar on the leaves of your plant or into its soil could destroy it. If you can’t find success with other smells, you should try a different method altogether. Do not use vinegar!


shells sand

Image by croisy from Pixabay 

Beyond smell deterrents, there are other ways to prevent your cats from interacting with your houseplants physically. One of the main reasons cats claw at plants is to use the soil for litter. If your cat loves to dig up the ground from your plants, placing shells in the soil will stop them.

Many cat owners like to use shells from old shellfish like clams and oyster shells. Oyster shells work particularly well because they feature sharper edges. When cats step on oyster shells, the ridges irritate their paw pads and cause them to leave the plants alone. 

If you want to use oyster shells, place them in the soil of your plant. Washing them beforehand may help — you can do this by hand or run them through the dishwasher. However, too many washing cycles can dull the edges and reduce the effect. Make sure not to wash the shells too much or else they might not work!


colorful pebbles

Image by sarajuggernaut from Pixabay 

While some cat owners like to use shells, other owners prefer not to irritate their cat with sharp shell edges. Thankfully, there are different ways to keep your cat out of your plants.

Houseplant soil makes great material for cat litter. Cats love to dig up the soft mulch soil and scatter it all over the place. If you want to prevent that from happening, you can place some rocks on top of the soil.

Rocks will make the plant less appealing to cats; it prevents them from reaching the soil underneath. Rocks are also hard and provide no value as litter. Depending on the size of your plant, you can use different sources to acquire your rocks. 

If you have rocks in your front or back yard, you can take a handful from there. Larger rocks often work better because they’re heavier. Cats struggle to manipulate them and move them out of the way. If you use heavier rocks, though, you must cover the entire soil! Any space will allow your cats to dig past the rocks back to the soil underneath.

Other owners opt for smaller and lighter lava rock. This type of rock functions nearly identically to larger smooth rocks. In both cases, the rock won’t affect the soil underneath. When you water the plant, water will drain through the rocks and reach the soil without any difficulty.


To prevent your cat from getting in the plants, you could also take matters into your own hands. A spray bottle filled with water will come in handy if your cat ever attempts to chew up your houseplants.

It only takes a spray or two of water to startle your cat. More often than not, the cats will back away from the plant. After a few instances, many cats will drop their house plant-eating habits altogether! If you can condition them to avoid houseplants on their own, you won’t need to spray citrus or garlic on the plant constantly. You can also skip placing rocks on top of the soil.

While this method takes more time and involvement than the others, it’s the surest way to curb your cat’s interest in your plants. If other methods fail, a spray bottle might be the best solution for you.

Cat-Resistant Plants

Many of the methods above take significant time and energy. If the hassle sounds like too much for you to deal with, you could skip the process altogether by purchasing cat-repellent houseplants. Certain aromatics deter cats naturally because they smell so strong. Rosemary is the most famous example, though other house plant species serve the same purpose. 

Buying cat-deterrent plants for your house is the simplest way to alleviate any issues. Some of these plants, like rosemary and lavender, provide their benefits as well! They’re a great way to make your house smell nice, and you can use them as spices for cooking. 

Plants for Your Cat

cat playing plants

Image by Dimitri Houtteman from Pixabay 

If all else fails, you can always buy some plants designated for your cat. Catnip is too strong, but other options like thyme or mint work great. These plants will keep your cats occupied and keep them out of your other houseplants!


Cat owners know how much of a struggle it can be to keep them away from houseplants. And while it is a difficult task, there are plenty of different ways you can achieve your goal. Remember not to use any method that might irritate your specific plant or cat! You should always research the details of your situation before you implement any technique found here.