things cats hate - what to avoid doing

What Do Cats Hate?

With the common stereotype still circling, most would argue that cats hate everything. However, cat lovers will understand that this simply isn’t true and there are plenty of things that cats love including naps, treats, and attacking mysterious, intrusive red dots.

There are particular things that some cats may tolerate however in general most cats tend to dislike the common pet peeves covered below. Continue reading to find out more about the things cats don’t like as well as some useful information about how to make your cat more comfortable in the home.

Particular Smells

Ginger cat smells a bright yellow flower

Your cat’s sense of smell is significantly more powerful than our own so it’s understandable that some scents may be repulsive or unbearable to our feline friends. The smells cats hate can range from plants, fruits, and household scents such as soaps, deodorants, air fresheners, etc.

Common Smells Cats Can’t Stand:

  • Unclean litter boxes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Spoiled food
  • Peppers
  • Lavender plants
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Vinegar

Essential Oils Can Make Your Cat Sick

Many essential oils are also filled with scents that cats simply can’t stand such as citrus, lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree. As a pet parent, it’s important to take care when purchasing these heavily scented products as a number of them can be toxic to cats because of their high concentration.

There are particular essential oils that are safe for your cat however if you’re looking for ways to calm cats, pheromone diffusers are a great option that won’t harm them or upset their sensitive noses.

What smells do cats hate? Find out more here, with our in-depth article.

Too Much or Not Enough Attention

Showing your cat too much or too little attention is amongst the list of things cats hate. Sometimes your kitty wants to be left alone, in which case, they will find a quiet spot to relax. Although other times, they will seek you out for your love and affection.

Showing your pet affection strengthens the bond between the cat owner and cat so it’s crucial that you pay them the attention they need and crave. Having said this, it’s also necessary to understand when to leave them be. After all, like people, cats need their own space too.

Aggressive Petting

Aggressive gray cat attacked the owner’s hand,

Unlike their canine counterparts, cats typically don’t like to be petted too much or too hard. A mistake a lot of cat owners make is being too heavy-handed with their felines which only repels them from wanting attention in the future. Aggressive petting can lead to your cat becoming overstimulated. When this happens she may respond by scratching, swiping, nipping, or simply retreating away from you.

If you’re worried about your cat becoming overstimulated when petting, take into account her body language. Cats tend to show signs when they’re becoming irritated which can include tail twitching, subtle ear movements, or shrinking away from your hand. If you spot any of these signs, make sure to be careful and give them space.

Belly Rubs

There are some cats that are anomalies and love a good belly rub although it’s a well-known fact that most cats dislike them. The belly is a very vulnerable area to a cat so they naturally want to protect it. This is why when you attempt to give it a scratch, your met with a nip or scratch.

Every now and then, they may flop onto their backs and show it off with pride. This is often a deep sign of trust although it isn’t an open invitation for you to pet it.

Body Language Cues

Cats are predominantly independent creatures that can be somewhat difficult to read. Some love finding secluded spots around the house to take their naps and relax in whereas others love to be in your company constantly. As you bond with your kitty friend, you’ll learn all about their likes and dislikes including their boundaries when it comes to being petted. If you want to find out more about cat behavior, take a look at our article which details more about cat behavior and body language.

An Unclean Litter Box

Young man is cleaning a litter box in a bathroom while gray and white tabby cat sitting next to it.

Cats are known to be hygienic and therefore they will simply refuse to use a dirty litter box. The smell of their own excrement and urine are amongst the many scents cats hate. Instead, they will either hold it in, which can result in health problems, or find an alternative area to relieve themselves in.

If you have multiple cats, make sure you have enough litter boxes in your home. More than one cat will mean that the box becomes dirty more often which increases the chances of your cat going to the bathroom elsewhere. Therefore it is vital that you monitor and maintain their litter box.

Startling Sounds

Generally, cats hate loud noises as they can often leave them on edge. Fireworks, doors slamming, yelling, or accidentally dropping something heavy can startle anyone but it’s worth considering how sensitive your cat’s ears are. Similarly, prolonged loud sounds such as music and the volume of your TV can also make your cat uncomfortable.

Always keep a close eye on your cat’s behavior. If you find yourself playing music often or have the tv volume up, observe how your cat reacts. If they leave to find a quiet spot to settle in, far from the noise, it could be that the noise overwhelms them.


As we’ve mentioned previously, cats are clean animals and will take good care of themselves without interference from humans. Pet owners will sometimes try and help their kitties stay clean by grooming them which isn’t always necessary.

Nail Cutting

Nail cutting can be stressful to cats, especially since they make their own efforts to keep them in good condition with the use of scratching posts, pads, and similar toys. In some cases, many cats can become used to this if it’s done from when they are a kitten. However, it’s worth considering items that can help as opposed to trimming them yourself.


It’s commonly understood that most felines dislike water. So unless your cat has taken a liking to play in mud and dirt, or perhaps has a skin condition, it is not always necessary to bathe them. Brushing will help long-haired cats’ fur to stay tangle and matte-free however bathing isn’t a requirement.

Check out these 12 Cat Breeds That Like Water.


Head Cat out of a car window in motion

Despite what social media may have you believe, not all cats like to curl up in a carrier or specialized backpack to go on trips or hikes. They may enjoy the freedom of being outside but physical transport is not something that a lot of cats enjoy. Being confined and subjected to car rides can be daunting, especially to domestic cats although sometimes it’s unavoidable when vet check-ups or visits are necessary.

Other Cats Invading Their Territory

Some cats are perfectly content with sharing their space with other animals or pets. However, a lot of cats are still in touch with their territorial nature and loathe the sight of another cat in their space.

Not just that, but cats are also competitive. When another feline shows up in their own territory, they often feel threatened. This is because they feel as though the other cat will likely receive all of the affection and treats their humans have to offer.

Taking Medication

At times, giving your furry friend veterinary medicine is unavoidable and is essential to keep your cat happy and healthy. Medications can sometimes have a significant, off-putting smell and/or taste, so it can be a difficult task getting your cat to take them. Fortunately, there are ways and tricks of giving them meds. Often, this involves carefully hiding the medication in food or treats.

Change in Environment

Most of the time, cats prefer for things to stay the same and live comfortably knowing how the world around them functions. Whereas cats dislike change, some may not detest it altogether, although it may be difficult for them to settle and feel comfortable for a while.

Common Changes That Affect Cats:

  • Moving furniture around
  • Moving home
  • Getting another pet
  • Losing one of their humans
  • A new addition to the family such as a baby or even having a friend stay the night.

Fortunately, cats can often adapt quickly to new environments. During difficult times, it’s important to give them their own space and let them adjust in their own time (a treat may not go amiss either).

One Last Note

Like dogs, most cats will have their own personality complete with likes and dislikes. Although, generally speaking, these are the most common things that kitties cannot tolerate. Some of the things above may really irritate your feline friend, whereas they may happily tolerate others. As an example, there are cats that love belly rubs or are unperturbed by loud noises! As you bond with your kitty, only you will know for sure what they love and what they can’t stand for certain.

You may also like our article on: How to Hold a Cat (The Right Way)

  1. Connie
    Nov 01, 2021

    Wrong. Cats love to be clean. That means a bath to get the nasty dander off them. I have had cats for over 50 yrs. each one was bathed and groomed monthly on the 27 th. Then dried nails clipped teeth brushed. U just do it a few times and see how happy they are when it’s done. Experience I have w cats. All cats I’ve had over 50 years. It’s abuse if you don’t bathe your cat. Period

  2. Degraft
    Oct 11, 2020

    That’s a great exposure
    Having a luxurious tym with animals

  3. James E Grisham
    Nov 24, 2019

    You’re wrong about the belly rubs. My cats demand them. They plop down and throw their paws up.

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