Does vinegar repel cats?

Is vinegar a successful domestic cat deterrent? I wanted to answer the question scientifically. I wanted some hard evidence discovered in a scientific study. I failed to find such a study and therefore I have to rely on what is called anecdotal evidence i.e. what people think.

And when you research what people think about vinegar as a cat repellent you don’t come up with solid answers.

Does vinegar repel cats?
Does vinegar repel cats? Yes and no. Image by MikeB at PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Perhaps the best information I’ve got is from Dr. Desmond Morris, who is a favourite author of mine. He states rather confidently that:

“The most effective deterrent, however, is that simple household substance, vinegar. Cats loathe it. The acid fragrance upsets their delicate nasal passages and they avoid anything smeared in it for long periods of time. Short of buying special, commercially prepared cat-repellent sprays from a local pet shop, it is the best weapon available.”

That sounds very promising but he goes on to add that cats are stubborn and will treat “chemical warfare” as a challenge.

Although they may change the areas where they are active to avoid the repellent, they may eventually and perhaps quite rapidly manage to overcome their distaste for vinegar. He is hinting that vinegar is not enormously successful in the medium to long term.

And I am sure that its success varies from cat to cat. In addition, you’ve got the problem of the cat’s caregiver. If you’re using this deterrent inside the home, you’ve got the smell of vinegar to deal with. Many humans don’t like it. And is it wise to place something in the home which cats are meant to hate? That goes against good cat caregiving, doesn’t it?

And if you spray straight or diluted vinegar around the edges of your garden to keep neighbours’ cats out you’ve got to contend with the weather. In rainy Britain it might not last for more than an afternoon.

And, of course, depending upon the size of the garden, you’ve got to use a lot of vinegar and spend quite a lot of time spraying it. Even without rain it is probably going to fade quite quickly.

I’m being very negative but I think that I am being practical and realistic as well. There are better cat deterrents if you are very concerned about cats coming into your garden.

For example, ultrasonic sound deterrence are at least moderately effective although some humans can hear the sound.

If you are really, really desperate to stop neighbours’ cats coming onto your garden, you can build a cat confinement fence around your garden but you turn it inside out so that it faces outwards rather than inwards. That would be a novel solution and it would be 100% guaranteed to keep cats out.

As to deterring your cat inside the home from going to certain places, I think the best solution is to learn to accept it if that is at all practical and possible or to find a psychological solution which in the long run will always be more successful.

That’s a reference to outsmarting your cat and training them. But in truth, it may be easier to allow your cat to go where they like and to adjust one’s attitude to that prospect. Or if a certain place is out of bounds for a genuinely good reason, then you make that place impossible to access by a domestic cat with a physical barrier.

On my travels across the Internet, I’ve not seen any non-physical barriers to domestic cat movements which are guaranteed effective. The best is probably about 50% effective.

Rue is a plant that may work as a cat deterrent when crushed

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