Do Coffee Grounds Keep Cats Away or are the Risks too Great?

  • By: Bob
  • Last updated: January 15, 2023
  • Time to read: 6 min.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive and biodegradable way to keep cats away from your yard, then you may be considering using coffee grounds. It is well known that coffee grounds have a powerful scent that cats are not fond of but do coffee grounds keep cats away or is this yet another old wives tale?

I’ve also found plenty of websites claiming that not only do they act as a natural cat repellent, but that they also provide numerous other benefits to your garden.

I’ve done some testing myself and results were so so although all cats are different so your mileage may differ. There’s also plenty of downsides to using coffee grounds though that you don’t read too much about so first I’m going to point out the benefits, then the downsides.

The Case For Coffee Grounds as a Cat Deterrent

Do Coffee Grounds Keep Cats Away?

Coffee grounds have long been used as a natural pest deterrent, including against outdoor cats. But why do coffee grounds keep cats away?

The strong aroma of the coffee bean is thought to be off-putting for cats because it’s so different from their normal scent markers. Cats use smells to identify their environment, so when they come across something that’s unfamiliar it can lead them to feel uncomfortable and encourages them to stay away from the area.

They also have a bitter taste which cats tend to avoid, further reinforcing their dislike of the coffee grounds.

Will coffee grounds deter cats from pooping in my yard?

Cat poop is extremely dangerous to gardeners and kids as they are more likely to come into direct contact with it.

As coffee grounds emit a strong odor that potentially repel cats from your yard then it follows they’ll be off doing their business elsewhere!

I wrote an article a while back you might also want to read about how to stop cats pooping in your garden.

Benefits of Coffee Grounds in your Garden

As well as being a potential cat deterrent coffee grounds are known to be a source of natural fertilizer for your garden. So whether you’re a passionate gardener or simply looking for an alternative way to keep cats away, the benefits of incorporating coffee grounds into your garden could be several.

How to use Coffee Grounds as a Cat Repellent

mixing coffee grounds into soil to deter cats from digging
Mixing coffee grounds into the soil will hopefully prevent a cat from digging up your seedlings

In order to ensure that the coffee grounds have maximum impact on deterring cats from entering the area they’ve been doing their business in, it is important to fully dry them out before spreading the grounds around.

This can be done by leaving them outside in an uncovered container for a few hours. When properly dried out, coffee grounds release their strong scent more effectively and are much less likely to be disturbed if it rains.

Once dry, they should be scattered evenly throughout the garden beds and flower pots so that their aroma has a greater chance of reaching any potential feline visitors.

The Case Against Coffee Grounds as a Cat Deterrent

When used excessively coffee grounds can be detrimental to both the soil and the plants in it. While coffee grounds may seem like a natural and eco-friendly solution for cat control, there are several factors to consider before using them.

The main drawback of using coffee grounds for gardeners is that they are acidic and have a pH level which can affect soil quality if applied too heavily or too often. Used coffee grounds do have a more balanced PH level but even these can cause damage to delicate plants if they are left exposed on the surface of your flower beds.

It’s important to make sure any application of coffee grounds is done with moderation and discretion.

The second issue with relying on coffee grounds for cat control lies in their effectiveness. More on that later.

Are coffee grounds Safe to for Cats?

Veterinarians that I spoke to say that coffee grounds can be life threatening for cats and even small dogs but only if ingested in moderate quantities. It can lead to an increased heart rate and even death due to heart failure or seizure.

Cats are more sensitive to caffeine than us so even small doses of ground coffee can cause an extreme reaction such as vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and tremors.

Coffee beans, grounds and brewed coffee contain caffeine, a very dangerous and toxic chemical to cats and dogs. Ingestion can be life threatening. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, a moderate amount of coffee can easily cause death in small dogs or cats. Be careful where you store your coffee — and your discarded grounds. Make sure your pet can’t gain access to what’s inside your trash can.


Why you should not use coffee grounds to Deter Cats

Some cats enjoy the smell of coffee
Some cats enjoy the smell of coffee

Coffee grounds are often touted as a safe way to deter cats from entering your garden but the truth is they are not the best option. In fact, using coffee grounds in an attempt to keep cats away could actually have some potentially harmful effects on both animals and your garden.

Firstly, coffee grounds may have an unpleasant scent that can be off-putting for cats, however this scent will not last long enough to actually act as a deterrent.

As coffee grounds quickly decompose when exposed to air and moisture, any smell produced by them will evaporate within a matter of days so you would need to constantly keep adding more to your garden soil, potentially rendering it too acidic.

Secondly, as coffee is toxic to some animals if ingested it should never be used near places where your or your neighbors pets may come into contact with it – such as flower beds.

Thirdly, I have seen myself that not all cats hate the smell of coffee grounds.

I drink instant so arranged to go to a friends house who is a coffee snob with the added benefit of having 2 house cats.

We placed a cup full of dried grounds on the floor and let the cats into the room.

The older cat sniffed it, turned its nose up and went and sat in its favourite spot while the younger cat took a little bit too much interest in the cups contents and we had to remove it for fear he was going to try and eat them.

My pal says the younger cat often tries to drink his coffee if he ever leaves it unattended.

Try a Better and Safer DIY Cat Repellent

If you’ve been looking for alternative ways to keep cats away, there are several other DIY cat repellents that may well work better than coffee grounds and that won’t ruin your soil.

One of the best natural cat repellents is vinegar which has a strong scent cats do not enjoy. You can use it by mixing a few drops with water and then spray it around the area you want to protect.

Another option is lavender oil, which some of my readers swear by, as are citrus peelings.

Try spreading orange peels around the problem area and of course there’s always the tried and tested buried chicken wire for persistent cats.

Any of these will deter cats at least as well as the smell of coffee and with no risk of someones pet cat or dog being killed by caffeine poisoning.

There’s also plenty of plants that help keep cats away that you could add to your garden.

If its instant success you are looking for then check out my reviews of the best commercial cat deterrents.

$35 gets you something like this solar powered motion sensor cat deterrent that’s plug and play.

Just stake it into the ground near your problem area and you’re done. Powered by the Sun they require no batteries or maintenance (apart from an occasional wipe down) and work exceptionally well.

If you are in the UK try this pair of Pestbye cat repellers currently selling for around £35. You can read my 4 year test and review here.


I could see coffee grounds working in potted plants

There’s far too much work involved to make used coffee grounds a viable cat repellent. Sure, if you have a decked area with some plant pots that you want to protect you could try sprinkling some used coffee grounds in it.

For even a small garden though I don’t see it being worth the effort or the risk. First off, unless you’re a coffeeholic you’re going to need to be collecting your used coffee grounds from the local coffee shops to keep replenishing your garden with them every couple of days. Using old coffee grounds this often in the end could ruin your soil and kill your plants.

For me then, it’s a definite no.

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