I’ve never noticed the smell from fig trees because I was always growing them outside. A few years ago, I started growing some indoors, for knowledge purposes mostly, and I was surprised by several odors they’ve changed since.
The longest present odor was something like urine, people tend to describe it like a cat’s urine, but I’d say it’s no different from any other. It’s not a pleasant odor by any means, but it can be counteracted in several ways.
Do All Plants Have Weird Smells?
All plants produce smelly chemical compounds, but most of them are in very low quantities that we don’t notice. You can even find some guidelines about not keeping certain plants in your bedroom for this very reason.
Several plants, mostly trees, have similarly noticeable odors like figs. Most of their odors resemble the smell of urine, or as people like to describe it, cats pee.
The better-known ones are:
- Viburnum Tinus
Why Do Fig Trees Smell Like Cat Urine?
Most plants evolve to have these odors to repel pests, and figs are known as one of the favorite pest targets when planted outside.
I guess figs have this urine smell for the same reason but never evolved it strong enough to repel pests successfully.
The cat pee smell comes from oils called thiols produced by fig tree leaves. They aren’t really noticeable by the eye, same as natural skin oil in humans.
I’ve written down the periods in which these odors appear for years since I’ve first noticed them. They are always present from late winter or early spring to the end of summer.
The end is closely related to when figs are fully ripe. I’m guessing fig trees stopped producing so much thiol oil because they don’t need it after the fruit is picked.
The thiol oil production in figs can have certain triggers. Most likely weather-related, like humidity. Although, I can’t speak about that with certainty because I haven’t grown fig trees anywhere else since I started researching it.
Cat pee smell in fig trees can also come from the soil. Common potting soil mix contains organic materials that can release ammonia as it decomposes.
Some fertilizers can decompose the same way unless they are water-soluble fertilizers where the process was already factory-done.
The third option is that you have a cat that was using the fig tree pot as a litter box. Funny as it sounds, it might be the actual problem.
Do Figs Always Smell Like Cat Pee?
In my experience, fig trees smell only when they are actively growing. The smell was present only from start to end of the growing season.
The same is true when looking at the age of fig trees. Once they reach the age when they stop growing larger, the smells become much weaker. It never disappears because they still need to regrow some parts, including their leaves.
Even when you want to keep your indoor fig trees small, the smell will be reduced over the years because the tree will be sort of trained to keep at that size. In other words, the tree won’t expect to grow much larger, so it would restrict its natural processes.
The same question, “do figs always smell like cat pee?” can be used to ask if a fig tree produces different odors from urine-like ones.
This is where the situation gets interesting as different people describe the same smell in very different ways.
People claim fig trees smell earthy, woody, or even like coconuts. People in the same room often experience those different smells simultaneously. Meaning the smell is highly subjective.
I’ve had days when the smell reminded me of a bland coconut smell, exactly the one when you open a coconut and the milk pours out.
It’s probably affected by certain nutrients the fig tree gets at that particular moment.
Do All Fig Trees Smell Like Cat Urine?
I haven’t tested it with many fig varieties because I haven’t needed to grow them indoors.
I’ve heard from my associates who had the opportunity to grow many fig varieties in greenhouses that each fig variety has its own version of odor. Some even had none at all, but that might be only situational.
How To Deal With Fig Tree Smell Indoors?
Odor removing air fresheners was the first thing I tried. They work okay but not good enough if you are going to live in the same room where the fig tree is. If it’s the room where you only walk through, then it’s a decent solution.
To prevent the smell from appearing to some extent, you can reduce nitrogen fertilizers to a minimum. Not giving a fig tree enough nitrogen will signal it not to grow too much. And always use water-soluble fertilizers.
Another way to remove the urine smell is to wash the leaves from time to time. Room temperature water and a soft sponge will do the trick. Thiol oils are not thick, meaning they wash away easily with water. Make sure to leave a window open so the air can dry it out because fig trees don’t like to stay wet.