Do Cats Like The Smell Of Garlic? (A Cat’s Nose Knows)

a clove of garlic

Garlic is a double-edged sword to me. On one hand, it adds so much flavor to food. But on the other hand, it smells pungent and can make my breath reek like a bear’s bottom.

Imagine for our dear cats whose sense of smell is so much more acute than ours. Do cats like the smell of garlic or do cats hate it?

Cats definitely do not like the smell of garlic due to how pungent it smells. Cats in general hate strong pungent odors because of how sensitive their sense of smell is. That being said, garlic is very toxic to cats when ingested and should be avoided at all costs.

As cat owners, we need to fully understand how toxic anything garlic can be to our cats. In this article, we will shed light on why cats dislike garlic and why you should keep your cat away from it.

What Is Garlic?

From a botanical point of view, garlic is considered a vegetable and part of the allium family. One head or bulb of garlic is made up of a number of individual garlic cloves.

This is the most commonly eaten part of the garlic plant even though you can eat the leaves and flowers too.

Garlic is often used in cooking and is also sold as a health supplement.

There are many health benefits to eating garlic like a better immune system, helps to lower cholesterol and contains antibiotic properties.

What Gives Garlic Its Signature Smell?

Garlic has such a recognizable smell that we all can tell it apart from almost anything else.

When you cut or crush garlic, an enzyme called alliinase is released. When oxidized, this enzyme gives garlic its signature sulphuric smell.

Does The Smell Of Garlic Affect Cats?

Fortunately, the smell of garlic doesn’t really have any health impact on cats. Most cats will not want to go near anything that has a garlicky smell.

That being said, a concentrated garlic smell can cause some irritation to a cat’s eyes and nose.

If you have just minced or chopped a big bowl of garlic with your cat nearby, it can cause a burning sensation in your cat’s eyes and nose.

One exception to this rule is essential oils made from garlic. The essential oil contains the properties of garlic. And when your cat inhales this oil, it has the same effects as your cat ingesting garlic.

Do not use this essential oil at home if you have dogs and cats at home.

They do not have the necessary enzymes to break down a certain chemical compound that is found in most essential oils.

This causes a build-up over time which leads to toxicity.

Does Garlic Keep Cats Away?

Technically yes and garlic has a bitter-smelling compound that cats do not like to go near.

A cat’s sense of smell is almost 14x more sensitive than ours. This means that the majority of cats can smell the garlic from a mile away.

I know that there are a lot of gardeners that use the smell of garlic to deter cats from entering their gardens.

Cat waste isn’t something that you want soiling your vegetable produce.

It can be considered hazardous for humans, especially small children, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system.

As an avid gardener myself, I do understand your frustrations.

But even if you aren’t really fond of cats, I do hope that you will consider using garlic in a more cat-friendly way.

If you plan to plant wild garlic in your garden to repel cats, it would be good if you could plant the wild garlic in a fenced-up area.

Most cats hate the smell of garlic and won’t come near your garden if they can smell it there.

But some wandering cats might actually be curious enough to try and take a bite of the garlic plant.

Some gardeners will take some raw garlic that is freshly minced and sprinkle it around the garden as a deterrent.

I would recommend putting these small pieces of raw garlic in a bottle and poke a few small holes in the cover.

The smell can still act as a deterrent and the cats won’t be able to ingest the garlic by accident.

You can do the same thing with garlic powder too.

Another equally effective deterrent would be to use crushed black pepper. Cats do not like the strong smell of black pepper which keeps them away from the garden.

In the event that the cat ingests some black pepper, it can cause some stomach irritation but it won’t be toxic like garlic.

What Happens If A Cat Licks Garlic?

cat licking garlic

If a cat happens to lick garlic, it can be extremely toxic for the poor feline. Garlic contains compounds called disulfides and thiosulphates.

When cats eat garlic, these compounds can cause serious damage to the cat’s red blood cells. The main role of these cells is to transport oxygen to other parts of the body.

When the cat’s red blood cells are damaged, this means less oxygen in the cat’s body which makes the cat anemic.

Here are some common symptoms of garlic toxicity in cats:

  • General weakness
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale looking gums
  • Rapid breathing
  • Becoming unconscious

In more serious cases, some cats can even die from ingesting garlic. This isn’t a small matter and your cat needs immediate medical attention if it has ingested garlic in any form.

Treatment For Garlic Poisoning In Cats

If not too much time has passed since your cat has ingested the garlic, the vet will try and induce vomiting to try and get rid of as much garlic as possible.

An IV drip will also be given to your cat to replenish any fluids lost.

In more serious cases where a large number of the cat’s red blood cells have been damaged, a transfusion will be needed.

The faster you seek treatment for your cat, the better will be its chances of a full recovery.

How Much Garlic Can Harm A Cat?

The scary thing about garlic poisoning is that the cat doesn’t need to ingest a lot of garlic for it to happen.

Garlic toxicity can happen when the cat consumes 1g of garlic for every 5 lbs of body weight.

Garlic powder is more potent than raw garlic as it is very concentrated.

For pet owners that like feeding their dogs and cats human food, make sure to read the ingredients label very carefully as garlic powder can be found in many food items.

Does Chili Powder Deter Cats?

chili powder deter cats

Chili powder can also be used as another effective deterrent for cats. The strong spicy odor works well in deterring cats from entering your garden.

You can sprinkle some around your garden like black crushed pepper. Don’t leave a whole clump of chili powder in a bowl and leave it outside.

The powder particles are so tiny and can cause a lot of irritation and burning to the cat’s face if inhaled from a close distance.

What Smells Do Cats Dislike The Most?

We know by now that our cats have a very sensitive sense of smell and tend to avoid strong smelling and pungent odors.

Here are some common smells that cats dislike:

  • Essential oils
  • Citrus fruits
  • Herbs
  • Vinegar
  • Ground coffee


Prevention is better than cure which means that if you have garlic lying around your kitchen, please keep them in a place that your cat can’t access.

I would like to stress again that garlic is highly toxic to cats and please get your cat to the vet ASAP if it has consumed any amount of garlic.

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