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Will Moth Balls Keep Cats Away? Facts & FAQ

Moth balls have been known to keep cats away and are a common old-school practice that has been used for years, however, they can cause cats to fall ill which is why it is not recommended as a cat repellent.

The strong smell from moth balls has been known to deter cats from certain areas, but they do contain pesticides and other harmful ingredients that are not safe for many animals and can even put a child’s health at risk, because mothballs are fumigants and contain dangerous chemicals.

If you want to learn more about how mothballs keep cats away and what makes it an unhealthy method for deterring cats, then this article will explain everything you need to know!

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Do Moth Balls Keep Cats Away From Certain Areas?

Yes, moth balls have been known to repel cats from being near certain areas where the smell of the mothballs is most prominent. If you are desperate to keep cats away from your home or areas in your yard, many people will try the old-school method of placing moth balls in those areas to keep cats away.

Moth balls have been shown to help keep most cats away, but they are not a good idea for a cat repellent because they contain harmful chemicals. They are only safe to use as directed by the manufacturer to deter insects in a secure environment, away from pets and children who can accidentally consume the mothball or be affected by the harmful chemicals that a moth ball is made from.

moth balls in a glass
Image Credit: Mashka, Shutterstock

Why Do Cats Not Like Moth Balls?

If you have ever smelt the strong odor of mothballs, perhaps in vintage homes or your grandparent’s house, you will be able to understand why most cats are repelled by the strong smell.

Cats often avoid going in areas that reek of mothballs because of the pungent fragrance they give off that does not smell good to a cat’s sensitive nose. This keeps cats away from areas that smell of mothballs because cats have a very strong sense of smell.

Cats are also more sensitive to the toxic effects given off by mothballs which deters them from the areas that smell the strongest. This might work, but the health risks associated with the misuse of mothballs are not worth it when there are many other safer options available to repel unwanted pests and cats from your property.

Are Moth Balls Safe To Use As Cat Repellent?

Mothballs are made up of three chemicals which are insecticides (para-dichlorobenzene, naphthalene, or camphor) and poisonous. So, it is even dangerous for humans to smell moth balls for long periods. However, the effect that moth balls have on humans is often reversible, but it can be detrimental for cats and other animals, along with small children. There is a more modern version of mothball that is para-dichlorobenzene free, however, it is still not a good idea to use any variety of mothballs to repel cats or rodents as the placement allows for the mothballs to be misused and dangerous.

Many people will place mothballs (or alternatives such as PD flour, blocks, flakes, or crystals) in attics, basements, or yards to keep unwanted pests off the property such as rodents or even cats. However, this is not a safe repellent to use, and placing it in open spaces is a misuse of moth balls which are meant to be placed in an airtight area where you will not smell these chemical-filled balls.

By using moth balls as a cat repellent, you are also putting other animals and children in danger of the toxic smell and accidental ingesting of these mothballs. It is especially risky to place moth balls in your yard because the chemicals can leach into the soil, and plants, or be accidentally ingested and fatal to children and animals who accidentally ingest the mothball or eat any plants affected with the chemicals.

It is important to read the label on the packaging of mothballs so that you can prevent misusing them and harming the environment, local animals, and yourself.

moth balls on wooden floor
Image Credit: EIANSTA, Shutterstock

What Happens If a Cat Ingests Moth Balls?

Moth balls can be fatal to cats if it is ingested, but prolonged exposure to mothballs in cats from the strong fragrance alone can also cause a cat to fall ill from being poisoned due to the chemical components found in all mothballs.

Naphthalene (a common pesticide in older versions of mothballs) can be ingested through the skin and lungs by both animals and humans. Paradichlorobenzene gases are also very irritating to your cat’s nose and ingesting or prolonged inhalation of these chemicals can be fatal to cats.

These are the common signs associated with a cat who has been exposed to mothball fragrances for a prolonged time:

  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Raspy breathing
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes and nose
  • Swelling
  • Gagging and coughing

A cat who has ingested mothballs or the other forms of moth balls such as crystals or powders will show the following signs of poisoning according to VCA Hospitals:

  • Slow breathing
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Pungent mothball breath
  • Shaking
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Nausea
  • Tremors

Mothballs dissolve slowly once they have been ingested, so a cat who is poisoned will take a few days to show signs of poisoning. If you suspect a cat has been poisoned from mothballs, you must get veterinary help immediately.

cat vomitting
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

What Safe Alternatives Can You Use To Repel Cats?

Since moth balls are not a great idea to keep cats away because of the risks associated with this product’s misuse, it is best to stick to more natural methods that are safer for the environment and cats. Although you want to keep cats away from certain areas of your property, it is important to use the appropriate methods that will not harm cats or the environment.

If you want to safely keep cats away, you can use cat repellents such as commercial cat repellent sprays or concentrates that can be used indoors or outdoors, or home remedies like citrus oils, vinegar, or raw onions. There are also solar repellent devices you can use outdoors in your yard. These are safer methods to repel cats without harming them.

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Keep in mind that most cats who wander onto your property are either strays or a neighbor’s wandering cat, so it is best to use safe repellents so that you do not harm them. Furthermore, using moth balls in yards or open areas puts other people and the environment at risk. Rodents and insects that consume moth balls will also fall ill and even poison predators in the area such as owls and other birds that eat the infected prey.

There are safer options to use to keep cats away aside from harmful moth balls that put the environment, humans, and local wildlife at risk.

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Featured Image: Faizal Ramli, Shutterstock