You’ve probably watched a number of videos of unsuspecting cats jumping in fright and dashing away from an innocent cucumber. Cats can be quite fearless, so why on earth are they so afraid of cucumbers?
People can’t help but laugh when watching one of these videos, and while watching a cat leaping straight up can be rather awe-inspiring and humorous, it’s highly recommended that you don’t do this with your own cat. We’ll have a look at this rather unusual phenomenon and why you shouldn’t try this at home.
Are cats actually afraid of cucumbers? There’s a popular theory that cucumbers resemble snakes, which are a natural enemy of cats. Cats have a natural instinct to avoid dangerous predators, which can include snakes. When a snake (or cucumber) suddenly appears next to a cat, it could potentially cause the extreme reactions we’ve seen in these videos.
However, cats are also very drawn to snakes as prey. How can any cat resist something that looks like a wriggling string? Many cats will stalk, kill, and eat snakes, even ones that are as large as 6 feet! However, pythons and boa constrictors would turn the tables on a cat, but since most of our cats here in North America don’t have any real experience with these tropical snakes, it’s unlikely they would be afraid of these types of snakes either.
Therefore, this theory isn’t as probable as you might think. In fact, it’s quite possible that if you show your cat a cucumber and let her give it a good examination (via sniffing, licking, and maybe chomping), you might find that she’s not afraid of it at all (unless your cat is a particularly nervous Nellie).
So, if a cat isn’t afraid of the cucumber because of its resemblance to a snake, what’s going on here?
The surprise factor. No one truly enjoys having something sneak up behind them, especially when eating or sleeping. Your cat is no exception. You’ll notice that these videos always occur when the cat is having dinner or is waking up from a nap, only to witness and then react to the sudden appearance of a cucumber.
In fact, if almost any innocent-looking object that your cat hasn’t encountered before is placed near her under these circumstances, chances are you’ll get the same response. So, it’s not the cucumber; it’s the sneak attack.
When a cat eats or sleeps, she is at her most vulnerable. Your cat will only eat or rest when she believes she is safe and that there is no threat in her immediate vicinity. So, when a trusting cat finishes her meal and finds this scary-looking fruit (yes, cucumbers are technically classified as fruit) unexpectedly behind her, of course, she’ll have a startling response!
Cats and Fear
All cats react to fear with either freezing, flight, or fight. The primary response to fear will always be flight unless they are trapped, in which case they will potentially react aggressively. So, in other words, all cats will run and attempt to escape when they are afraid, which is what happens with the cucumber.
When a cat is in fear mode, she believes that there is a present threat that will cause her harm. We humans sometimes enjoy a certain amount of fear from time to time. Horror movies, roller coasters, even haunted attractions are quite popular for many people, but cats don’t appreciate pranks and fear the same we do.
Cats are solitary eaters and hunters, so they have their guard up more than a pack animal will, which makes them much more careful and reactive.
Why You Shouldn’t Scare Your Cat With a Cucumber
We might find it amusing when a cat has such an extreme reaction, but it’s actually a pretty cruel prank to play on your cat. While your cat is relaxing at home, she feels secure and safe. You’re there to take care of her and protect her from illness and any other threat that could cause her harm.
When cats take a nap or eat their dinner, they expect to do so peacefully and safely. So, when they turn around and are confronted by an item that wasn’t there when she started eating, her fear response kicks in, and she’s off and running.
You’ve just taken her safe place and turned into something to fear. Your cat will remember this event and might be apprehensive while eating in the future. If she suspects that you had a hand in this, you’re risking your cat forming a measure of distrust in you.
Sometimes fear can become a phobia, which can take years or months with a behavior modification program to get her back to a happy and confident cat. All it takes is one unpleasant experience.
Not only can this lead to a prolonged stressor for cats, but they might injure themselves or someone else while trying to get away from the situation.
If You Need More Convincing About Why It’s a Bad Idea
There are many reasons why playing these kinds of pranks on your cat is a terrible idea.
The long and the short of the situation is this, don’t intentionally scare your cat. Not too many of us would appreciate waking up from a nap with a fake spider somewhere on our bodies, but we can at least understand the prank. Cats don’t understand the humor of these situations, and it’s good to remember that when a cat experiences fear, it can be dangerous for the cat and your relationship with her.
Furthermore, if you have a cat that is already prone to anxiety, avoid any unnecessary tricks such as this just to get a reaction. You’ll do psychological harm, which just isn’t worth it when being a cat owner is just so rewarding without resorting to tricks just to get a laugh.
Featured Image Credit: tugol, Shutterstock