Plants That Repel Cats and Dogs

It's frustrating spending money and hours thoughtfully landscaping your garden only to have a cat or dog make himself at home amidst your flowers. A variety of hedges, ground covers, herbs and flowers can add texture and color to your yard while subtly warning neighborhood pets to keep out.

Coleus Canina as a Hedge

Coleus canina is also known as the "scaredy cat" plant, which gives you an idea of its effectiveness at warning cats and dogs away from your garden. Growing up to 2 feet tall, this plant sports small blue flowers within its dark green leaves. Coleus canina works by emitting an odor that many animals find offensive. The odor likely won't bother you unless you rub its leaves.

Thorny Shrubs and Ground Cover

A plant doesn't have to smell bad to deter a cat or dog from intruding on your property. Choose a thorny plant that will serve as a slightly harsh but harmless warning to stay away. Pyracantha is easy to grow and shows beautiful red, yellow and orange berries in the fall for some extra garden color. Barberry can reach up to 9 feet tall, transitioning from bright yellow flowers in the spring to red berries in the fall. Other thorny shrubs to serve as pet barriers include roses, gooseberry and holly.

You may prefer a ground cover that will serve as an "unwelcome" mat in your yard. Consider dwarf natal plum and the bougainvillea variety "raspberry ice" as pet-unfriendly ground covers.

Repelling Herbs

Dogs and cats alike rue ruta graveolens, also known as common rue. Its scent offends more than four-legged explorers; insects such as ants will also steer clear of it. Growing in semi-shady or sunny spots, it reaches 18 inches tall; beware because rue can be toxic to people. Other discouraging herbs include:

  • Citronella
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Calendula 

Unwelcoming Flowers and Plants

The bergamot plant is a perennial, sporting red flowers and reaching almost 24 inches in height. If you enjoy a bit of yellow in your yard, consider marigolds and mustard plants to deter dogs. Cooks who like a little spice in their food should consider growing cayenne or chili pepper plants, both of which are offensive to dogs and cats. They'll likely avoid the pungent scent of chives and the citrus aroma of lemongrass.


  • Use the same strategies indoors to keep your pets away from your plants. Pet-safe prickly plants, such as cacti -- not succulents -- and miniature roses may discourage your pet from nosing around in the foliage. Use smaller pots of repellent herbs indoors for a bit of color and pleasant fragrance.

Redirecting Traffic

If cats are a particular problem, you can plant catnip in areas where they'll be more welcome. Cats will be drawn to the catnip and perhaps stay to snack on cat grass, if you plant it. Runner beans, pumpkins, squash, daisies and caryopteris can provide a fun diversion for a cat to hide and explore in.