Humane Deterrents for Free-Roaming Cats

Oʻahu has a large and visible population of Free-Roaming cats. The Hawaiian Humane Society supports Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) in order to improve animal welfare and humanely reduce the population over time. There are also a range of solutions that can help humanely deter or modify Free-Roaming cat behavior around your home or business.


Cats are highly sensitive to scent. There are commercial products, DIY products, and plants that can be used to make your yard smell unappealing to cats.

  • Coleus Canina is in the mint family and is nick-named the “scaredy-cat plant”.
  • Lavender has a smell that is off-putting to cats and it can also be used to make floral arrangements, sachets and in cooking!
  • Cats don’t like the smell of citrus. Lemon and orange peels can be used as natural repellents.
  • Essential oils of lavender, lemongrass, citronella, citrus, eucalyptus and geranium have all been shown to deter cats. Careful – a little goes a long way!
  • Critter Ridder is a natural product made of black pepper oil, piperine and capsaicin, and is a mild irritant to cats.


There are many different types of physical barriers you can place in your garden, yard, lanai, or driveway.

  • Chicken wire or mulch placed on top of the soil stops cats from digging.
  • Specialized fencing like the Mr. McGregor fence is more permanent but effective.
    • A cheaper alternative is lattice fencing found at hardware stores.
  • Cat Scat Mats have plastic spokes that prevent cats from walking on the ground.
    • You can create a similar effect by putting chopsticks / wooden sticks in the soil in the top layer of soil.
  • Large ornamental rocks in exposed areas block cats’ paths.


Cats can hear high frequencies of sound that we can’t. A motion-activated sound device like Cat Stop is a good way to keep cats away. You can also hang wind chimes or other noise makers that are triggered when cats walk by.


Cats hate water, so motion-activated sprinklers are a great way to say “keep out”!

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Make sure your trash can has a lid and that it is secure.
  • Talk to your neighbor(s) to find out if anyone has spay/neutered or feeds the cats in your community. If you or a neighbor(s) is feeding and/or managing cats, make sure the food is in an agreed upon area and are following best practices.
  • If you own a pet cat, make sure it is spay/neutered and kept indoors.