We have a lot of stray cats in my neighborhood and they possess an uncanny ability to know when a car has been cleaned for them to sit on and enjoy.

Needless to say, the dirty, dusty paw marks they leave behind is a hassle to clean.

The ideal solution would be to use a car cover, but to use it on a daily driver is highly impractical.

Are there any proven cat-repellent products that are specifically designed for cars? The last thing I want to do is apply some generic household product and damage the paintwork.

A quick Google search reveals that some products and techniques do exist, but they are either impractical, provide limited protection or difficult to get hold of.

I'm open to humane suggestions. No ethylene glycol. No spiked tuna, etc.

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    Relevant and hilarious: youtube.com/watch?v=uIbkLjjlMV8 – MikeTheLiar Apr 19 '16 at 13:28
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    Just buy your own cat, a big strong one, it will chase other cats away. All you have to do is teach it to not sit on your car. – Count Iblis Apr 19 '16 at 17:52
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    @CountIblis maybe a Lion ;) – Wayne Werner Apr 21 '16 at 11:52
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    Put spikes on it – Möoz Apr 22 '16 at 1:23
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    Cats are intelligent, curious, determined creatures. Any temporary solution will fail because the cat will realise soon after it's stopped. Any static solution will fail (such as the fake snake on the car) because they will get used to it over time and realise there's no danger. Also, how many cats are doing this? If you are trying to train 100 stray cats, good luck to you! Anyway, I usually have the opposite problem, that the neighbour's cats leave clean footprints on my dusty car! – CJ Dennis Apr 23 '16 at 5:23

21 Answers 21

Place a cardboard box next to your car. If science has told us anything, it is "if they fits, then they sits".

Cats in a box

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    Because if that doesn't trash-up the lawn, nothing will – Insane Apr 19 '16 at 0:01
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    Genius! Give this man a medal. – I have no idea what I'm doing Apr 19 '16 at 13:11
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    Is this just a joke answer, or would it really keep cats off a car? – Xen2050 Apr 19 '16 at 19:26
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    "If science has told us anything, it is "if they fits, then they sits"." [citation needed] – Braiam Apr 21 '16 at 1:02
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    @Braiam "According to a 2006 study by the National Research Council, the thermoneutral zone for a domestic cat is 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit.... It also explains why many cats may enjoy curling up in tiny cardboard boxes and other strange places. Corrugated cardboard is a great insulator and confined spaces force the cat to ball up or form some other impossible object, which in turn helps it to preserve body heat." wired.com/2015/02/whats-up-with-cats-and-boxes – Bacon Brad Apr 21 '16 at 2:36

Put catnip on the hood of a neighboring car...

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    @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 yeah.....no – DucatiKiller Apr 18 '16 at 22:54
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    @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 i'd put the bowls on other cars to increase the concentration on mine :) – user1886419 Apr 19 '16 at 0:41
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    I know for a fact this works. I suggested it to his neighbor about a year ago. – David Ljung Madison Apr 30 '16 at 7:26

Just as it is common for people to hang plastic owls in trees to scare off birds, you must scare away the cats with a natural fear.

As a popular YouTube video illustrates, cats have a very real fear of Cucumbers.

enter image description here

Now I'm not suggesting that Cucumbers are a natural enemy of cats, or that you place cucumbers all over your car. Extrapolating the color and shape of the cucumber to a real animal seems to point to a snake.

Rubber snakes are cheap and easy to keep in your car. Placing rubber snakes on the hood and trunk of your car should scare away cats. They can't see the snake from the ground, so they don't have time to decide it is fake. As soon as they jump and see it, they will quickly run away.

enter image description here

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    You can almost see the thought bubble on the black cat: Dude, it's a cucumber, relax – cdunn Apr 18 '16 at 21:58
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    I'm with the cats. There's no logical requirement in the world for a Cucumber to exist... – PeteCon Apr 19 '16 at 1:17
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    I like butter sandwiches much more than I like cucumber sandwiches...just sayin' – Rory Alsop Apr 19 '16 at 8:30
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    @Linkyu, I'm pretty sure you had a mongoose and not a cat. That's pretty crazy. – JPhi1618 Apr 20 '16 at 14:40
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    Tested this last night with four test subjects, ages 15, 14 8 and 7. Three females, one male. None of the subjects were afraid of the cucumber. One of them tried to gently nibble on the cucumber. Conclusion: cucumber not recommended for feline control. – corsiKa Apr 22 '16 at 13:31

If you do not want cats (whether stray or otherwise) on your vehicle, conceal it either in a garage or car cover. They can get the car cover as dirty as they want to, but they will not get it onto the vehicle itself. While you say it is impractical, what's more impractical, washing your car every other day or taking two minutes to take the cover off and put it on. To me the choice is obvious.

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    My thoughts exactly. If you get a soft cotton car cover to go over the vehicles paintwork it will provide effective protection, even if cats continue to walk across the panels on your car. – Steve Matthews Apr 19 '16 at 11:10
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    A loose or rough car cover in the wind could do much more damage to a car's finish than some dusty cat prints, so definitely check & secure the cover well. I don't know if a cover might encourage some cats to dig in their claws & climb their way around the car either, so scratches could become a problem. Still +1 – Xen2050 Apr 19 '16 at 19:30
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    Oh, good; a real answer. – Dan Henderson Apr 20 '16 at 19:52
  • I wouldn't recommend a car cover. I had a cover torn to pieces within a month while storing a car at a house with 5 or so cats. It actually seemed to attract them because of the soft surface and more possibilities for hiding/general shenanigans. – atraudes Apr 21 '16 at 20:59
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    I have a counter-story: my neighbour has a motorcycle; semi-feral cats sleep on it, mostlz on the seat; during winter he convers it with a cover shaped like the motorcicle, to protect it from rain; and then the cats sleep on the seat anyway, under the cover. (Sometimes they also play with the cover.) – ANeves Apr 24 '16 at 1:34

A little easier to do than building your own. This should keep them away, just remember not to set it off yourself when you leave for work.

Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer Motion Activated Sprinkler

enter image description here

ScareCrow Motion Activated Animal Repellent

enter image description here

enter image description here

15 Reasons You Need A Scarecrow Motion-Activated Sprinkler

Then put a few of these in a safe (dry) location.

enter image description here

  • Except, we're trying to protect the car, not make it wet and dirty. – Jasmine Apr 20 '16 at 18:44
  • @Jasmine You don't have to point the sprinkler at the car, the car shouldn't get wet at all. – Move More Comments Link To Top Apr 20 '16 at 19:42
  • Yeah, you kinda do, if the car is what you want to protect. Cats are pretty smart. They work their way around stuff and do whatever they want. – Jasmine Apr 20 '16 at 20:32
  • A fella named Craig Turner made an excellent DIY video on doing exactly this: youtube.com/watch?v=uIbkLjjlMV8 – Aaron Lavers Apr 22 '16 at 3:30

Sometimes cats will seek out the highest vantage point, so you could try providing a higher perch in the near vicinity (but make sure your car isn't a direct spring-board to the new perch). Perhaps wrap the perch with twine/rope, newspaper, paper bags, cardboard boxes, computer keyboards with fake hands on them, catnip, or other stuff cats like to trample.

Note: I'd avoid any tactics that 'scare' the cat away, or risk trading paw prints for claw marks.

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    It might then be a good idea to lower the car or put air bags for parking as low as possible. Cats hate stanced cars. – JPhi1618 Apr 18 '16 at 23:13
  • Great point. Laying frame will also prevent the cats from curling up next to the hot.. uhh.. cats! – MooseLucifer Apr 18 '16 at 23:18

I think the real problem is them getting in it

If you have left your windows open at night and have the joy of cat urine in your car you will understand.

If you have heard of story of a cat climbing into an engine compartment at night to stay warm, you will understand.

Cat Repellent

There are quite a few products that can repel cats, natural and synthetic.

You can use these in your wheel wells to prevent them from climbing into the engine compartment and you can roll up your windows at night to keep them out of your car. If your windows are broken, you have bigger problems to solve.

There are devices on the market that emit ultrasonic waves that drive cats away. From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_repeller#Ultrasonic_devices:

Many retailers sell devices which exploit the discomforting effects of in-air ultrasound. These devices are usually combined with a motion sensor which is triggered by movement within the sensors range. This causes the device to emit high frequency noise which is uncomfortable to the cats, and inaudible to most humans (although they can still experience unpleasant subjective effects and, potentially, shifts in the hearing threshold[1]).

These devices work effectively as long as the cat is able to hear. Obviously, older cats with hearing loss may be immune to its effects.

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    This seems promising! – Zaid Apr 19 '16 at 2:36
  • Won't that set off dogs as well? Don't think I'd trade dusty paw-prints for a night full of howling dogs, but maybe that's just me. – TMN Apr 19 '16 at 12:34
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    @TMN Possibly, but as an added benefit, it'll keep dogs off your car, too. – Lynn Crumbling Apr 19 '16 at 13:22
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    Our cats and the neighbour cats were perfectly able to hear. All of them slept directly next to these devices when put onto a car (and thus on the car). Putting the device onto the ground didn't help, the ground just seems to be too uncomfortable. – Daniel Jour Apr 20 '16 at 7:17
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    Possibly, but as an added benefit, it'll keep humans off your car, too – Lynn Crumbling Apr 21 '16 at 12:37

Aim a light sprinkler on your car.

Cats don't like slippery surfaces and most dislike water (especially when they are trying to relax)

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    This would probably work, but isn't the point of this question is to keep the cats off so the car can stay clean? – Ellesedil Apr 19 '16 at 0:42
  • @Ellesedil is you car clean after it rains? – user1886419 Apr 19 '16 at 0:44
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    That depends on one's definition of clean. Some people do not view a car with water spots as a clean car. – Ellesedil Apr 19 '16 at 0:44
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    @Ellesedil did OP define clean? – user1886419 Apr 19 '16 at 0:46
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    You could use the proximity detector from a light to open a valve to spray the car. Your next question should be, "how do I keep hardwater spots from getting on my car." My answer, "quit spraying the cats on your car with water." It'll become a chicken or the egg thing. – DucatiKiller Apr 19 '16 at 5:47

Are you a software guy? Check out the Kurt Grandis video below. Kurt built a Robotic Squirt Gun to keep Squirrels out of his Bird Feeder. Its a way cool project. I think that would work even better for cats on the car. I'm wondering if you can squirt the cats before they get to the car, but that depends on where its parked, etc... I guess you could also use a large puff of air instead of water. I think that would do the trick, if your neighbors could stand the weird noises from an air cannon at 2AM...

Video here.

I didn't see this suggested so I thought it would be interesting. If you have keyless entry you could always look into wiring a train horn to your car. For example, United Pacific Economy Horns on Summit:

enter image description here

anytime you saw a cat near or around your car you could hit lock and it would fire the horn and send them through the sky.

If you don't have an alarm system you could always look into purchasing one like Viper's 1-Way Keyless Entry System:

enter image description here

and connect the train horn to the aux side. Positive note, if you ever had someone try to break into your car at night you would surely be awaken by the horn.

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    Is this another joke answer? You'd have to stay up all night staring at your car... Everyone within your neighbourhood would surely be woken up by that kind of horn, and you'd probably get lots of noise complaints from the police or a neighbourhood/condo association too. A tiny bicycle horn would scare a cat... – Xen2050 Apr 19 '16 at 18:55

You can try putting cayenne pepper on & around your car, maybe mixed with a little water so it doesn't blow away. That's supposed to work well to keep animals out of a garden or flowerbed


There are motion activated air sprayers like this PetSafe Ssscat Cat Spray Control System that should be great to put by your wipers or wherever area of the car that's visited most.

There used to be a model that would beep first, and then spray air, so you could "train" them to avoid just the beep & use less or no air (no refills to buy). And it should be possible to attach an air compressor (set very low, maybe 10psi)

ssscat

How it works:

Ssscat’s automatic spray system combines spray technology with a motion detector to protect indoor areas and objects within a one meter radius. When your pet is within the one meter radius, the system will detect their movement and send out a burst of spray in their direction. Since the spray is harmless, odorless, and stainless, you won’t have to worry about damaging either your pet or your home. Because the spray catches your cat off guard, he will turn away and learn to avoid that area.

  • Adjustable motion detector angles between the detection of the motion and spray from side-to-side.
  • You can also adjust the direction of the spray up and down.
  • Ssscat repels cats and other small animals up to one meter away.
  • The scentless spray is enough to annoy him, but your nose won’t notice.
  • Ssscat can also be used for other small animals such as rabbits, dogs, and ferrets.
  • Uses 4 AAA batteries (not included).

Taping it to a weighted bag should keep it from blowing away outside, something like a bean bag gps mount would be an expensive alternative to a soft bag with something in it.

I've tried this indoors and it did work well, too well in that it would go off whenever I walked too close to the sensor.


Or, just use a Glade Sense & Spray air freshener. It has a motion detector & should only spray once every 30min if it detects motion. The scent will probably keep cats & other animals away.


Or you can make a motion activated water sprayer from existing relatively cheap products, like a Raid Auto-Trigger sprayer and the above mentioned Glade sprayer.


Or use an Arduino based more versatile one (for maybe ~$45 US according to the parts page)

Cats like sunshine and warm surfaces.

Rinse the car with cold water to keep the temperature down, make sure you park in the shade and then hope.

Me, I just live with the paw prints.

  • Sadly, this won't work in sunny Doha. – Zaid Apr 19 '16 at 10:01
  • @Zaid, ah, in that case your best bet is to learn to love cat paw prints :) – Separatrix Apr 19 '16 at 10:25

Old fashioned stimulus response might do the trick. The cat probably won't like the clunky noise your auto-unlock makes (if your car has this feature). If you wait until the cat is on your car then unlock the doors and repeat this over a few days, then the cats might not like your car so much.

I use a cheap $60 (over the internet) ultrasound emitter that triggers on motion, and shuts off within 15 seconds of no motion. I have one in the front yard and one in the backyard. Works on dogs, cats, squirrels and some birds.
One negative thing is they cannot tolerate the rain and humidity of central Florida at all. I have to bring them inside if it is rainy or foggy.

EZ-PZ gang! MOTH BALLS are your answer! Cheap, easy and they work. A neighborhood cat was using my side yard as a litter box, so I sprinkled a few moth balls on the grass and voila, no more cat waste. Apparently, they just hate the smell. You could leave a few in a tupperware container and then close the container when you go to work.

Buy some products intended to stop cats weeing in the house, for example lion urine. Like these:

Or search for topics entitled: How to stop my cats urinating on the skirting boards of my house.
Cats compete for territory by group weeing on things they think is theirs, so you may find you are in the same topic as cats weeing on walls.

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    While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review – MooseLucifer Apr 19 '16 at 13:11
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    @MooseLucifer It's not even a "link only" answer, just a vague suggestion of what to search for. @ comprehensible adding the top answer or two would make it +1 worthy – Xen2050 Apr 19 '16 at 19:35
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    @MooseLucifer I've edited in some examples & links, if approved should look +1 worthy now – Xen2050 Apr 20 '16 at 22:05
  • @Xen2050 Indeed it is. – Lynn Crumbling Apr 21 '16 at 12:39

I have similar problem as yours. My solution is : put several dolls (animal shaped, e.g. dog, should be scary enough) on the car's area where they usually come and sit (on my case, it's on the front part, above the machine's cap, I'm not sure what it's called in English).

So far it's effective to keep the cats away.

p.s. the drawback is, my neighbor usually laugh when passing and seeing this.

Tie a Dog next to your car ! (if you have one)

  • Mental -1 because I lack the rep here to vote down. – a CVn Apr 19 '16 at 12:08
  • @MichaelKjörling, I think you have the rep now! – JPhi1618 Apr 19 '16 at 15:51
  • This is seriously the most likely to succeed answer (especially if your car's parked in your yard/fence), why not more +1's? – Xen2050 Apr 20 '16 at 20:59
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    @Xen2050: Because it's obscenely and offensively cruel? – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 24 '16 at 12:49
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    @Xen2050: "you can keep your dog tied to a fixed rope/chain outside for 3hrs a day" That is what is known as "cruel"!! I don't really care what some American police department says lol – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 25 '16 at 7:23

Paint your car a color cats don't like or park it in your garage. Alternatively you could call animal control and tell them stray animals keep loitering on your property "don't mention cats".

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    What does animal control say if you tell them there's stray cats on your property? – Xen2050 Apr 19 '16 at 22:13
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    They bring you cat traps in my state/city, then you call them when they are full. – Moab Apr 27 '16 at 22:20

According to this article, there are three traditional methods:

  1. Substance coverage. The trouble with this is that, as you remarked, in general, these products risk damaging the car's paint as much as or more than the cat's scratches.

  2. Lurking and frightening. This includes things like blasting the horn with your key or drenching the cat with a sprinkler. The danger is that the cat make worse scratches when jumping than it would otherwise have made.

  3. Booby traps. This includes motion sensitive devices and upside mousetraps, etc. Concerning #2 and #3, he writes,

I don't recommend either of these scenarios — stalking the cats or setting out harmful contraptions — since they'll probably only make things worse: As the cats jump, they'll leave nasty gouges and scratches on your paint job. And their owner's bound to be upset with you if she finds out.

Instead, get yourself a portable car storage unit with a door that you can zip up quickly and simply.

protected by Community Apr 25 '16 at 16:19

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