How To Keep Cats Off Your Car

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Medically reviewed by Maureen Kanana, DVM
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I used to live in a neighborhood where feral cats were everywhere. In 2010, I had a car with a soft top and planned to buy a car cover for it as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, two or three feral cats used my car top as a scratching post overnight and inflicted some scars before I could get the cover. 

No question. Cats are cute.

But the claw scratches or dirty footprints can be a nightmare, especially if you’ve just bought a new car, re-painted it, or washed it. 

Yes, you can wipe the footprint, but the scratches can be a horror. And if it keeps happening, you could easily find yourself annoyed. 

I tried several options to keep pesky cats off my car but weren’t as successful. So I:

  • Reviewed methods other car owners used to keep cats off their cats
  • Consulted my vet to help me curve the most humane approach
  • Compared my options and picked only the best ways

And now, I want to share what I found out.

Easy Solutions to Keep Cats Off Your Car

The best options are the easiest and most overlooked ones. Some of them include

1. Park Your Car in a Garage

If you have a garage, the simplest and the most effective way to keep cats off your cat is to park it in the garage. A garage makes your car inaccessible to cats, so they can’t:

  • Climb on it
  • Scratch the paint
  • Leave paw prints on it

If you don’t have a garage to park your car, proceed to the next option.

2. Switch Parking Spots

Switching your parking spot interrupts the cat’s established behavior. Cats are creatures of habit and are more likely to visit and climb on a stationary car that they’ve become accustomed to. 

By switching your parking spot regularly, you disrupt this behavior pattern. The cats may not recognize your car in its new location and may be less inclined to approach it.

However, you should change the parking spot regularly. Cats are adaptable, and if they learn that you’ve changed your parking spot, they might investigate the new location.

Besides, changing your parking spot might not solve the issue if your neighborhood has widespread ferals. The cats roam freely and will locate your new spot if your car provides comfort.

3. Park in a Shaded Spot

Cats often seek warm and sunny spots for relaxation. By parking your car in a shaded area, you reduce the appeal of your vehicle as a sunbathing spot for cats. 

Felines are less likely to choose a shady car over one in direct sunlight because they prefer warmth and coziness. Shaded areas are cooler and less comfortable for a cat to rest on.

Parking in a shaded spot might not be a foolproof solution. A cat can still climb on or scratch your car if it finds it appealing for other reasons, such as:

  • Appealing texture of the car surface
  • The presence of other cats in the vicinity
  • Elevated vantage position to survey its surround
  • Running for refuge when escaping from other animals, sudden noises, or bad weather

4. Talk to Your Neighbor

If the cat in your car belongs to your neighbor, the best solution is to talk to them and find the best way to address the problem. 

Your neighbor might not know their cat is causing a nuisance by climbing on your car. When you communicate with them, you make them aware of the issue, and they may take steps to prevent their cat from doing so.

If your neighbor is understanding and cooperative, they might keep the cat indoors or supervise its outdoor activities more closely to prevent it from accessing your cat. 

Alternatively, your neighbor might use deterrent methods on their property to discourage their cat from wandering into your car.

5. Clear Food Scraps Away From the Car

Food scraps, crumbs, or spills attract cats. Cats have a keen sense of smell, and if they detect food odors, they may be more inclined to investigate your car. 

Keeping the area around your car clean and free of food remnants reduces the incentive for cats to approach.

Besides, food scraps attract other animals, such as rodents and birds, which may indirectly attract cats to your car. Eliminating food crumbs around your car minimizes the presence of these potential food sources, decreasing the overall attractiveness of the area for cats.

6. Trim the Cat’s Nails (If It’s Your Cat Scratching Your Car)

While trimming your nails can deter a cat from scratching your car, it won’t keep it away from your vehicle. Nail trimming is appropriate if you don’t mind your cat climbing your car but are concerned about scratching.

However, you’ll need nail clippers or grinders to cut your cat’s nails. Some of the best options include:

7. Set off Your Car Alarm

Setting off your car alarm can prevent your cat from climbing your car. Car alarms produce loud and attention-grabbing noises when triggered. 

Since cats are hypersensitive to sound, loud and sudden noises can startle them and discourage them from approaching your car.

Besides, most felines like to explore and rest in quiet locations. When a cat climbs your cat, and the alarms go off unexpectedly, it will disrupt the cat’s peace and make the vehicle less appealing.

The only problem with setting your car alarm is that it can be annoying when it’s frequent or goes for a prolonged time. The disturbance is even more severe if the cats climb your car at night because it interrupts your sleep.

8. Use a Cat Scat Mat

A cat scat mat provides an uncomfortable or unpleasant surface for the cats, discouraging them from accessing your car area.

Some, like the Yostopper Anti-Cats Mat, are made of rubber with small flexible spikes or nubs, creating an uncomfortable physical barrier for cats to walk or sit on.

Instead of injuring the cat, the mats encourage the felines to seek more comfortable spots than your cat

9. Plant Fake Snakes Around Your Car

Cats have an instinct to avoid potential predators like big snakes. Placing a fake big snake like a cobra might create an illusion of danger, scaring some cats away.

The visual appearance of a fake snake can startle cats and make them think twice about approaching your car. 

You can get the 3-Pcs Long Rubber Snake from Murdizzo and place them around your vehicle to disrupt the cat’s normal climbing habit.

However, some cat owners report that their cats play with snakes before killing them and might not be responsive to fake snakes. In such a case, you can use a cobra badge, which is more likely to scare the cat. 

Sprays, Herb, & Repellents

If the cat-climbing-your-car problem might be severe, you can choose more effective methods such as sprays, herbs, or repellents. The efficacy of each varies, depending on the cats.

Pro Tip: Before using the deterrents on stray cats, ensure they don’t belong to one of your neighbors. – to avoid conflicts.

10. Use Cat Repellent Spray

Cat repellent sprays have scents that cats find unpleasant or offensive. Some of the smells include:

  • Citrus
  • Bitter apple
  • Cayenne pepper
  • vinegar

When you spray a repellent on or around your car, the smell stops cats from getting any closer. 

However, repellent sprays are temporary and will dissipate or wash away with time. You’ll need to reapply the spray periodically, especially after rain.

Some of the best commercial cat repellent sprays you can get include:

If you have a spray bottle at home, you might not need to get a commercial cat repellant. You can create DIY sprays and spray them on the ground around your can and the tire. 

Here is a list of DIY sprays you can make at home:

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar Spray

Apple cider vinegar has a strong smell that deters most felines. You can make one and use it to keep cats off your car.

To make a vinegar cat deterrent spray, you’ll need:

  • A cup of apple cider vinegar
  • Water

Then, proceed as follows:

  1. Mix the vinegar with water in a spray bottle.
  2. Shake the solution well to combine.
  3. Spray the solution around the car to make the area unappealing to cats.

Pro Tip: Pure vinegar is acidic and corrodes vehicles’ paint. Instead of applying it directly on your car, spray around it and examine the result.

  1. Mint

Cats are sensitive to strong, minty scents. If you don’t have vinegar in your home but have a minty mouthwash, you can make an excellent cat deterrent. 

You’ll need:

  • A minty mouthwash (e.g., peppermint or spearmint flavor)
  • Water 
  • A spray bottle

Then proceed as follows:

  1. Mix the minty mouthwash with water in a spray bottle.
  2. Shake the solution to ensure the ingredients thoroughly combine.
  3. Spray the minty mouthwash solution around your car area to deter the cats.

Don’t apply the solution to your car because it might compromise the painting.

  1. Citrus spray

Most cats dislike the scent of citrus fruits, making them excellent for a DIY spray. To make a citrus cat deterrent spray, you’ll need:

  • A cup of water
  • Fresh lemon or orange juice. 

Then, proceed as follows:

  1. Mix the ingredients.
  2. Transfer the solution to a spray bottle.
  3. Shake well.
  4. Spray the solution around your car.

11. Sprinkle Cat-Repellent Powder on the Car

Instead of spray, you can create a physical barrier on the ground around your car using cat-repellent powder. When cats come into contact with the powder, they may find the texture uncomfortable and avoid your car.

Cat repellent powders have ingredients with textures and scents that cats dislike, such as:

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Citrus scents
  • Peppermints
  • Bittering agents

If a cat walks on or gets near the powder, they’ll feel an unpleasant sensation on their paws, discouraging them from getting closer to your car.

Some of the most effective cat-repellent powders you can use include:

Pro Tip: Find an organic, chemical-free cat-repellent powder safe for children, plants, and other pets.

12. Spread Dried Herbs That Cats Hate Over Your Car

 There are many herbs cats hate. Feline’s sensitive noses might make them run away when they come in contact. 

You can spread such herbs on your car and keep cats away. Some of them include:

  • Dried lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Thyme
  • Lemon balm
  • Mint
  • Blackthorn
  • Citronella
  • Holly

You can spread a bundle of these herbs around your car and deter the cats away. However, you must replace them as their scent wears off after 5-7 days until the cats get the ideas.

Pro Tip: Dried herbs are more environment-friendly than store-bought repellent powders.

If you don’t like the smell of dried herbs, you can opt for cayenne pepper.

13. Use Cayenne Pepper

If you have cayenne pepper in your home, you can use it to deter cats from approaching or climbing on your car. Cayenne pepper has a strong, spicy scent and taste that cats can’t withstand.

When cats find the pepper or surface treated with it, it can create a sensory deterrent that discourages them from getting closer to your car.

To use cayenne pepper as a deterrent, you’ll need the following:

Then proceed as follows:

  1. Fill the empty shaker container with cayenne pepper powder. 
  2. Sprinkle cayenne pepper on areas where cats tend to climb or scratch on your car, such as the hood, roof, and trunk.

The biggest problem with cayenne pepper powder is that wind can blow it away, and rain will wash it out.

14. Train Your Cat to Avoid Your Car Area

Training a cat isn’t easy, but you can help it avoid your car’s area through behavior modification and deterrents.

Here’s a simple guide to training your cat to avoid your car.

  1. Create a cat-friendly zone in your yard or home where your kitty can play, explore, perch and sunbathe. You can make this area appealing with toys, scratching posts, and comfortable spots for resting. The goal is to provide an alternative to your car.
  2. You can use cat deterrents in your car parking area to redirect your cat away from the cat. The deterrents will make your cat associate your car with a bad experience and prefer the cat-friendly zone you’ve created.
  3. If you find your cat avoiding the car and using the designated area, you can provide positive reinforcement like treats, praise, or petting.
  4. Be consistent with your training effort because training takes time. Avoid punishment and harsh methods if your cat doesn’t get it at first because it can be counterproductive.

15. Put Orange Peels Around the Car

Putting orange peels around your cat can be a natural and non-toxic way to deter cats from approaching or climbing your car. Orange peels have a citrus scent and natural oils that irritate your cat.

If cats encounter this scent when approaching your car, they may be discouraged. While the peels repel cats, they’re a non-toxic and environment-friendly option to deter cats.

To use orange peels as deterrents, proceed as follows:

  1. Collect orange peels.
  2. Place them strategically around the base of your car
  3. The perimeter of the peels will establish a deterrent zone

You should change the peels periodically because the scent of the peel may diminish or dry after some time.

Automatic Solutions

If you want to be less involved in keeping cats off your car, choose any of the automatic solutions below.

16. Leverage Ultrasonic Repellent

Ultrasonic repellents emit high-frequency sound waves unpleasant to cats but typically inaudible to humans. Manufacturers design them to deter cats from entering specific areas or approaching objects like your cat.

If you get an ultrasonic device, a cat approaching your car will detect the sound and find it less unpleasant, keeping it away. The devices are humane and non-harmful, making them a safe option.

Most ultrasonic cat repellents have adjustable settings to control the range and intensity of the sound waves. You can tail the device’s coverage area to protect your car effectively.

Some, like the Broox 2024 Upgraded Solar Animal Repellent, have motion sensors that detect motion within their range and activate the ultrasonic sound. The motion activators ensure the device is directed toward the approaching cat.

17. Use Motion-Controlled Sprinklers

Cats hate water. An automatic sprinkler detects motion within its range and activates a burst of water, which startles and discourages cats from approaching your car.

One of the best options is the Enforce Motion-Activated Sprinkler. The sprinklers have built-in sensors that detect cats’ movements. A cat entering the sensor’s range triggers the sprinkler to splash water.

The burst of water will irritate the cat, making it associate your car area with an unpleasant experience. Over time, cats will learn to avoid the area you’ve protected.

18. Get Motion-Activated Lights

Motion-activated lights are another excellent solution to deter cats from your car, especially at nighttime. The light has sensors that detect movement within a specific range. When a cat approaches the vehicle, the sensor automatically triggers the light to turn on.

Since cats are sensitive to sudden changes in their environment, the unexpected light can startle them, making them uncomfortable and discouraging them from heading towards the car. 

Cats often prefer to stay in darker, more concealed areas. The sudden illumination the light provides exposes them to a well-lit environment, driving them away from your vehicle.

19. Put Static Mats or Pet Shock Mats Around Your Car

Static mats and pet shock mats deliver a mild static shock when a cat steps on them, creating an aversive experience that discourages the cat from climbing your vehicle. Cats quickly learn to associate the aversive experience with the area around the car, making them avoid it.

Static mats offer immediate deterrence. A cat that encounters a static shock is more likely to move away from the mat and the car, preventing scratching or spotting.

Many static mats allow you to adjust the level of static shock, making it possible to use safe settings while deterring cats.

Inhuman Options To Avoid

While there are hundreds of ways to keep cats off your car, you should avoid inhumane options that can cause harm or distress to cats. Some of the methods include:

20. Using Pellet Gun

While pellet guns can keep cats off your cat, it’s inhumane. Pellet guns can cause serious injuries or even death to cats, even if you only try to shoot them in the leg or tail.

In many states, it is illegal to discharge a pellet gun or other firearm within city limits. Besides, cats are quick and agile and can easily dodge a pellet. Even if you hit a cat, it’s unlikely to deter it from returning to your car.

If you have concerns about cats on your property, using a pellet gun can worsen the problem. While shooting a cat may make it more afraid of you and your cat, they might become more aggressive and destructive.

21. Using Moth Balls

Some people use mothballs to deter cats from their cars. The smell of mothballs is unappealing to the feline population and will repel cats away.

However, mothballs have chemicals that are toxic to both humans and cats. Inhaling or ingesting mothball fumes can cause serious health problems or cat poisoning.

Mothballs also release toxic fumes into the environment, affecting not only cats but also other wildlife, pets, and even humans. The chemicals can contaminate soil and water sources.

Other Options

You can consider other humane and safe alternatives for deterring cats from your car. For instance, you can:

22. Put a cucumber in the car

Some car owners report that putting cucumber slices around their cars deterred cats. While not so effective, cucumbers can startle cats, making them jump and retreat swiftly, mistaking them for snakes due to their similar shape and color.

However, no scientific research or evidence suggests that cucumbers will repel cats in the long term. The cat may only react to cucumber based on fear and surprise.

23. Get A Car Cover

If you have no garage to park your car, a car cover can protect your vehicle from cats. Instead of getting the cats off the car, the felines can jump on it all they want, but it won’t get your car dirty or scratched.

The cover provides a physical barrier between your cat and the outdoor environment. Cats are less likely to climb on car cover, especially if you securely fasten it. Felines won’t get a stable surface to perch or scratch.

How To Keep Cats Off Your Car: In Conclusion

We’ve covered much of this post, so let’s conclude with a quick checklist to help you choose the best method to keep cats off your car.

Here are the most important things to remember:

  • Unless you’re dealing with ferals, talk to your neighbor to establish if their cat is invading your property and messing with your car.
  • Regardless of the cat, use humane and safe methods to deter cats from your car.
  • While powdered cat repellents work better than sprays, they’re more easily blown away. You’ll need to re-apply them after some days or when it’s windy and rainy.

Whichever method you choose to keep cats off your car, please remember to use a humane method.


How do I stop cats from walking in my car?

You can stop cats walking on your car with cat repellent spray or powders, cayenne pepper, ultrasonic repellents, automatic sprinklers, or changing your car parking location. The best method depends on whether the cat is yours, your neighbor’s, or a feral.

Why are cats attracted to my car?

Warm cars attract cats. As your car sits in the sun, its metal warms, making it a cozy spot for cats to lie on. Other times, food residues might attract cats to your car. The residue can also attract birds, insects, or rodents, which might draw cats for hunting opportunities.

What is a good cat repellent?

Good cat repellents include citrus or lemon scents, vinegar, pipe tobacco, and citronella. Some of the commercial options include:
* 2 Pack Solar Animal Repellent Ultrasonic Animal Repeller
* Cat scat mats
* Cat repellent spray

What is the most effective cat repellent?

The most effective cat repellents are automatic, such as motion-activated sprinklers, automatic ultrasonic cat repellent, and motion-activated light. The efficacy of automatic options doesn’t diminish over time like chemical deterrents.

How do you keep cats away from car engines?

To keep cats away from your car engine, raise the hood to prevent them from entering. You can also use aluminum foil around the engine bay, install motion-activated repellents, sprinkle cayenne pepper, or use citrus spray or powder around the engine area. 

About Laura Martin

I'm Laura Martin. I get excited about all things cat related. I love my two cats - Dom and Kitty. When I'm not playing with my two feline friends, you can probably find me hiking. And yes, I have a 9 to 5 job. Although if you asked me I'd rather spend my time blogging and educating other cat moms and dads about what it takes to raise a healthy cat.

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