Repellent vs. Deterrent – What’s the Difference?

Repellent vs. Deterrent – What’s the Difference?

Shake-Away Animal Repellent

Shake-Away is an example of a Repellent

In the realm of protecting our gardens, landscaping and homes from animals of many kinds, consumers tend to use the terms “repellent” and “deterrent” interchangeably. Manufacturers and vendors of such products also use the terms synonomously in their descriptions, but is there a difference between them? may provide a hint regarding their proper application in the context of keeping animals away from your stuff. The online reference shows the following definition and synonyms for the term “repellent” as “distaste”, “aversion”, “repugnant” and “disgusting.

re•pel•lent [ri-pel-uh nt]


  1. causing distaste or aversion; repulsive.
  2. forcing or driving back.
  3. serving or tending to ward off or drive away.
  4. impervious or resistant to something (often used incombination): moth-repellant.


  1. something that repels,  as a substance that keeps away insects.—Synonyms 1.  repugnant, disgusting, distasteful, loathsome.


Contrasting that with the term “deterrent” you see references to the words “restraint”, “curb” and “hindrance”.

de•ter•rent [dih-tur-uh nt, -tuhr-, -ter-]


  1. serving or tending to deter.


  1. something that deters: a deterrent to crime.
  2. Military strength or an ability to defend a country or retaliate strongly enough to deter  an enemy from attacking.

—synonyms –   restraint, curb, check, hindrance.

Another hint at the correct use of these qualifiers comes when you perform a Google Product Search using those single word search terms.

A search for the term “repellent” brings back products that are largely spray on bug repellents. A search for the word “deterrent” results in a list of products dominated by mechanical devices used to deter pesky critters.

Given the above definitions and evidence shown in keyword

Scarecrow Sprinkler Animal Deterrent

Scarecrow Sprinkler is an example of a Deterrent

searches, are the terms “repellent” and “deterrent” still interchangeable? If forced to use them to classify products it may be accurate to use the following definitions:

Repellent Products: A substance that repels animals using the sense of taste and/or odor.

Deterrent Products: A device that repels animals using the sense of sight, sound and or touch.

By the above definition, Repellent Products would include those such as:

  • Shake-Away Animal Repellent – Cause of Action is fear using granulated predator urine through the animal’s sense of smell.
  • Deer Off – A topical spray using putrescent egg solids, garlic and capsaicin to repel using odor and taste.
  • Hot Pepper Wax and – A spray on using hot peppers to ward of browsing animals through taste.
  • Plantskyyd – a powder concentrate using dried blood meal to repel using offensive odor.

In turn by the above definition, Deterrent Products would reflect those such as:

  • Scarecrow Sprinkler – a sprinkler using a motion sensor repels using noise and a spray of water.
  • Wireless Deer Fence – battery operated electrified device that repels deer through sense of touch.
  • CatStop – Electronic device that uses motion sensor and high pitched sound to deter animals.

Although classifying products in the manner above may make products easier to find and understand, manufacturers, vendors and consumers will likely continue to use the terms interchangeably.

Because animal intrusion problems are unique to each circumstance, having the knowledge of the nuance between a “repellent” and a “deterrent” may help you to find the most effective solution for your specific critter problem.


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