I find that dogs and cats hear the ultrasonic repeller only when you first turn it on then ignore it.
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I found that they really hate the smell of orange peel. When you fold over a piece of orange peel little spurts of orange oil shoot out into a fine mist. You can hold it over a flame and see them burst into fire or hold it with a back light to see it. Well they really hate that stuff. Letting it mist down on something keeps them off of it for a little while until the smell is gone.
I bought a ultrasonic cat repeller and it did not work on my cat at all. You can try other methods of repelling a cat such as rickharris mentioned, a spray bottle is very effective. It also depends on where you want to keep a cat away from. For example, for a garden you can grow certain herbs that deter them or other methods. If you want to get your cat to stop jumping up on your kitchen counter you can put sticky tape or aluminum foil on the counter (they hate walking on that) or place a can full of pennies on the edge of the counter so if it jumps up the can falls and makes a lot of noise. These are good if you are not at home but the spray bottle is really effective if you catch them in the act.
I think your sticking point may be "that works" If you find the commercial systems don't work then I doubt you can make anything that will be better.i suggest you invest in a super soaker and lie in wait - Cats don't like being surprised or wet.