Funny cat videos are the beating heart of internet culture. A popular video meme involves cats leaping out of the skin when confronted with a cucumber. This quickly became a worldwide trend, with owners terrifying felines with this innocuous fruit.
Cats are believed to be afraid of cucumbers because they look like snakes. This is possible, but the cat is likelier frightened by the sudden appearance of something unexpected. Cats loathe being snuck up on from behind. The sudden appearance of anything, especially an object with no scent, will trigger a fight-or-flight response in felines.
There is nothing to gain by frightening a cat with a cucumber. Most cats are more nervous by nature than owners realize. Needlessly scaring a cat will harm your bond, making the cat feel unsafe in the home.
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Are Cats Afraid of Cucumbers?
Everybody enjoys a funny cat video. Felines are an endless source of amusement for owners and strangers alike. This means that all social media networks and online video portals are filled with feline content.
For a while, the biggest source of entertainment online centered around scaring cats with cucumbers. It was discovered that placing a cucumber close to a cat resulted in a panicked response.
These incidents suggest that cats are deathly afraid of cucumbers. The truth of this situation is not as clear-cut as it seems, though.
Why are Cats So Scared of Cucumbers?
It is a fallacy to claim that cats are afraid of cucumbers, period. Watch any video, and you will notice one common factor in all the incidents recorded in the compilation.
In almost every instance, the cat was minding its own business. The cucumber was then silently placed behind the cat. This means the cat is not afraid of the cucumber, per se. It was frightened by the sudden appearance of something it did not expect to see.
It is likeliest that a cat is startled by an ambush. This theory gains credence through other experiments, which saw cats reacting similarly to bananas and pears. While most cats are indifferent to eating fruit, they are rarely outright afraid of it.
There are other suggestions as to why cats jump when confronted with a cucumber. Some claim that the feline is mistaking the fruit for a live snake. As we cannot ask a cat to explain its behavior, we can only make educated guesses.
When anything appears behind a cat unexpectedly, it will be startled. Cats like to maintain a constant state of awareness. They listen for movement around them to avoid being surprised. One exception to this is when the cat is eating or drinking.
This should be a moment of blissful mindfulness for the cat. Cats feel vulnerable when eating. They rely on humans to watch their backs while they seek nourishment.
As the cat is lost in the moment, the appearance of a cucumber will frighten it. Cucumbers are like silent assassins as they make no sound and carry no scent. The texture of cucumber is also unfamiliar. This is enough to send a cat spiraling into a fight-or-flight response.
Any inanimate object would cause this. Even the sudden appearance of an owner may startle a cat, though they usually detect us through scent. Cucumbers offer no such warning.
Resemblance to Snakes
It is often assumed that cats are afraid of snakes. Some snakes are venomous and could harm, or even kill, a cat with their fangs. This leads people to assume that cats mistake cucumbers for snakes and react accordingly.
This is not necessarily the case. In fact, it is likely a matter of humanizing a feline reaction. Many people are afraid of snakes due to their unfamiliarity. Snakes have no legs, and thus move in an unfamiliar way. This makes us uncomfortable.
A cat is less likely to feel this way. It’s certainly possible that a cat will flee a snake on the first encounter. Cats are often afraid of anything unfamiliar. Many cats are likelier to be intrigued by a snake, though. The cat wants to know what this unfamiliar animal is. In fact, as per the Journal of Herpetology, feral cats often kill wild snakes.
This may be because the cat considers attack to be the best form of defense. Alternatively, the cat may be intrigued by the reptile’s movement and compelled to hunt. Snakes are likelier to fear cats than vice versa.
My Cat is Not Afraid of Cucumbers
The presence of a cucumber will not single-handedly frighten your cat. It is the sudden appearance of the fruit that causes panic. Your cat does not necessarily have nerves of steel. It would likely jump and run if surprised by the fruit.
Lay a cucumber on the ground in front of your cat. Let your cat see you do this, then walk away. The cat will likely approach the cucumber, sniff it, then walk away. Cucumbers hold no interest to a cat in everyday life.
Even the bravest cat will jump when a cucumber appears behind it suddenly. The one exception to this is a cat that is losing its sight. If the cat does not glimpse the cucumber in its peripheral vision, it cannot be startled. Ways to test your cat’s eyesight include:
- Play with a laser pointer and check for a reaction.
- Drop a feather from height in front of the cat and watch for hunting behaviors.
- Turn lights in the home on and off and check for dilation in the pupils.
- Place soft obstacles between the cat and food and watch if the cat bumps into them.
You will notice that frightening the cat with a cucumber is not on this list. Stick with safe, humane ways to conduct this test. If the cat is not blind, you place it at risk by scaring it.
Should I Scare My Cat with a Cucumber?
Frightening a cat with a cucumber may make you laugh and earn kudos on social media. This is where the advantages end, though. You can permanently damage your bond with your cat by engaging in this behavior. You also place yourself at risk.
When you watch the videos of cats being frightened by cucumbers, the feline invariably flee. This forgets the first part of the fight or flight equation. Your cat will likely run away, but it may respond aggressively.
If a cat is frightened into fighting, it will not pull its punches. The cat may itself launch at the cucumber – and you may be caught in the crossfire. Expect the cat to claw and bite with all its worth. This will puncture your skin and leave you injured.
If this happens, you only have yourself to blame. You cannot scold or punish the cat for its actions. The cat was doing what came naturally as it feared for its own safety.
It remains likelier that your cat will run away from the cucumber. If that’s the case, it is not a case of no harm done. Cats are resilient, but they also have long memories when it comes to bad experiences.
Harm to Bond
To a cat, if you are not a source of safety, you become a danger. This will be reflected in your cat’s demeanor around you. Your cat will fear you, wondering if you plan to frighten it again. This will have a detrimental impact on the cat’s quality of life.
PLOS One studied the dynamics between cats and owners, based on how a cat responds to human interaction. Unsurprisingly, the results show that obedient cats that trust owners enjoy a better relationship.
If your cat does not trust you, it will not follow house rules. This can lead to increased unwanted behaviors and disciplinary problems. This, in turn, will cause further deterioration in your bond.
Eventually, the cat may just decide to leave. It gains little from spending time with you and will try its luck elsewhere. This is increasingly likely if your cat already visits other homes. Cats tolerate humans because they love us, not because they need us.
Stress and Anxiety
Cats may appear to live an easy life, but most felines are a bag of nerves. Cats are mesopredators, which means they are both hunters and hunted. This means that cats are regularly afraid for their own safety.
Over time, a cat learns to relax in your home. Some cats never do, seemingly remaining scared of everything around them. Equally, there will always be key stress triggers for all cats. Responsible cat owners keep their cats calm, though.
This becomes increasingly important as your cat grows older. Stress is referred to as, “the silent killer” in humans, and the same applies to felines. As a cat grows older, it’s heart will grow weaker. This means your pet must feel safe and secure in its own territory.
The sudden, unnecessary surprise of scaring a cat with a cucumber could provoke cardiac arrest. It could also send a cat into shock, which is dangerous. Even if your cat experiences no immediate impact, it may live in a heightened state of stress.
Suddenly, the home is no longer a safe haven. The cat will be nervous, wondering if or when it will be surprised again. A cat must never suspect that danger lurks around every corner in the home. This can lead to a steady descent into heart disease.
A cat’s body is designed for sharp, sudden movements. This is key to feline hunting. All the same, cats can cause injury by fleeing without appropriate preparation. Older cats, especially, need to limber up before getting active.
If your cat is startled by a cucumber, it will react. In its desperation to run, it could accrue any number of injuries. These include:
- Muscular tears and strains
- Collisions with stationary objects, such as glass doors or furniture
- Trips and falls from height if the cat looks to climb to safety
- Road traffic collisions if the cat runs blindly outside
None of these incidents will be pleasant for a cat, especially a senior feline. Older cats are already likely living with arthritis and similar aches and pains. The risk of further discomfort should only be imposed when necessary.
It can take a cat quite some time to digest a meal. The Journal of Nutrition confirms that senior cats, in particular, experience reduced gut efficiency. This means that a cat should not make any sudden movements after eating.
If you frighten a cat with a cucumber, it will flee. The cat will instantly seek a safe space. This may be an elevated position, or even outside. Either way, the cat will be moving more than is advisable while digesting.
The cat will likely regurgitate or vomit the last thing it ate. This will obviously need to be cleaned up, but that is only part of the issue. Vomiting can leave a cat dehydrated and cause further distress. What’s more, the cat will have purged any nutrition from its meal.
Vomiting can also deter a cat from eating in the future. No feline enjoys the experience of regurgitation. It is messy, undignified, and potentially painful. This simple prank may leave your cat afraid to eat. That will lead to a range of further health complications.
There is never a good time to frighten your cat. After eating, though, is arguably the worst of all. As older cats have slow digestion, several hours after a meal still qualifies for this status.
There is nothing to gain, and plenty to lose, by frightening a cat with a cucumber. Remember, it’s not the fruit itself that traumatized your cat. It is the willful exploitation of feline instinct and startled response.