Paws Off: How to Keep Cats Off Cars

Regardless of whether or not you’d label yourself a “cat person,” nobody likes it when cats jump on top of their car. Even if you don’t actually see them on the car, you’ll most likely still find evidence of their presence: scratches on the paint, tears in the tarp, or even just cat prints on the roof.

In some cases, you might find cats lounging around on your hood and bumper—which can be difficult to deal with if you’re trying to go somewhere.

With enough damage, the price of an older car or used car values can actually go down—making it that much harder to sell your car with scratches on the hood or roof. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can keep stray cats from lurking around your vehicle.

Use Mothballs

If you aren’t sure where to begin learning how to keep cats off cars, mothballs are a good place to start. Not a lot of people enjoy the scent of mothballs—cats included. The best way to do this is by purchasing them (bags of mothballs tend to be around $5 to $15) and placing them in bags.

You can then take the bags, and distribute them around your car—such as near the tires, on the roof, and hood. While your neighbors might give you a few funny looks, nearby stray cats are likely to be repulsed by the smell and stay away.

The only downside to this method is that the cats won’t be the only ones who smell the mothballs. Even if you remove them before driving, there’s still a chance your car will smell. However, a decent air freshener may be able to eliminate the scent.

Sprinkle Cayenne Pepper

A less smelly option might be sprinkling cayenne pepper around your car. You don’t need to sprinkle the pepper on your vehicle—just around it in a circle. Although it may take a few days for the cats to completely back off, cayenne pepper does have a history of keeping strays away.

The key here is to continue using the cayenne pepper (even if the cats seem to have left). If the cats return, you might need to increase the amount of pepper you use, or try a different method. Sound the Alarm

A more extreme option is to sound the alarm—literally. Ultrasound pet alarms usually run around $30 to $50, but they may be more effective at keeping the cats away then cheaper methods.

These alarms use motion sensors, which will detect the movement of cats (or similar sized animals) and emit an alarm to scare them away. Some products may actually use flashing lights to fend off cats too.

One of the great things about a pet alarm is that, while it will certainly startle any cats that wander too close, the noise is usually inaudible to human ears.

Turn on the Sprinklers

If you find that an alarm won’t deter the neighborhood cats from lounging in the bed of your Ford truck or on the hood of your Toyota, a sprinkler might.

Although some sprinklers work on a specific schedule (like only turning on in the morning), motion-controlled sprinklers will turn on when they sense nearby motion. For this reason, a motion-controlled sensor that’s located by your car can be a great way to deter cats from coming too close. Anytime they try, they’ll be hosed down by water.

The only disadvantage to this solution is that your cat might not be the only one who gets wet. If you forget to turn off the sprinkler and walk by your car, you might also end up getting hosed down.

Try Using a Car Cover

Although a cat’s claws might easily tear through a scrappy tarp, they’re unlikely to scratch through a car cover that you can zip up. While purchasing a car cover might be more expensive, it may be worth it considering new car prices and truck prices. The last thing you want is a cat with sharp claws tearing through the paint job on your brand new car.

One of the benefits of using a car cover over some other options is that it won’t harm or scare the cat. While they still may spend all night sleeping on your car, there won’t be any physical damage or evidence left behind. Besides keeping cats away, car covers can even protect your vehicle in poor weather conditions too.

Talk to the Owner

In some cases, the suspect in question might be a neighbor’s cat who wanders over to your property while the car is there. If this is the case, your first step might be—before investing in a car cover or pet alarm—talking to the neighbor and asking them to keep the cat indoors. If that doesn’t work, you can try just asking the owner to trim their cat’s claws.

Some people might agree to this, which would remove the issue without costing you a dime. However, other times, the neighbor might not be willing to take that step—or you might not even know whose cat is doing the damage.

Make Your Own Repellant Spray

If mothballs and cayenne pepper won’t do the trick, a homemade repellant spray might. The key is to use some sort of scented essential oil (such as lavender or peppermint) and mix with plenty of water in a spray bottle.

By regularly spraying this mixture on and near your car every night, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to deter the neighborhood cats from coming by. Since some cats might be easier to scare off than others, you can experiment with the type of essential oils you use and the amount.

However, if making your repellant spray doesn’t seem to work, you can always purchase one from the store or online (most run around $10 to $20) and try it out.

Keep in mind that, if you do take this route, it’s important to spray the repellant on a regular basis—sometimes even as much as every time you park your car. This will ensure that the scent of the spray doesn’t fade, and the cats stay away.

Change Your Parking Location

While it might not work in all locations, changing where you park your car can prevent curious felines from coming back. Vehicles that are located out in the open and under the sun might attract more cats than those that are parked in a dark, shaded parking garage.

If you can, parking in a public parking garage instead of the street or locking your car away in your own personal garage is one way to prevent cats from accessing your vehicle.

Depending on where you live, changing your parking location might not be possible, but if you are able to, it can save you a lot of time and energy in the long run.

Cats who skulk around your car can be more than just an annoyance—they can actually cause significant damage to your paint job over time. Cat scratches that tear through the paint can look a lot like someone has keyed your car, and may even require the same repairs. 

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to prevent curious neighborhood cats or straggly strays from causing this kind of damage. In some situations, it might only take a little cayenne pepper or a few mothballs, but in other circumstances, you might need to purchase a motion-controlled sprinkler or car cover to protect your vehicle.

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