Why are domestic cats frightened of cucumbers?

Why are domestic cats frightened of cucumbers?


If you saw the headline of this article and wondered if you had either misread it or if it was some kind of a joke, then the chances are that the current viral video trend of cat owners posting videos of their cats jumping out of their skin at the sight of a cucumber has totally passed you by.

If you Google “cat scared by cucumber” or a similar term, you will be right up to date on the phenomenon, and quite possibly, rather confused as well-why on earth is it that a large number of cats seem to seriously overreact at the sight of a cucumber, and should you try out the experiment on your own cat to see if they respond in the same way?

In this article, we will answer these questions, and provide a little more insight into the whole phenomenon as well! Read on to learn more.

The videos

In case you have not spotted some of the videos and social media posts on the whole “cats and cucumbers” phenomenon, here’s a quick outline of what happens. Cat owners try to place a simple plain cucumber behind their cat and out of their line of sight without the cat spotting them doing this-most of the videos show this happening when the cat is tucking into their dinner-and when the cat does suddenly spot the cucumber out of the corner of their eye, the overreaction that occurs in many cats can be quite something to behold!

While some cats appear to be totally uninterested by the sight of the cucumber, a significant number of others exhibit a pronounced panic response when they finally spot it, which manifests as a large jump or flip, followed up by running away as fast as possible, until the cat actually realises that the cucumber is a cucumber, and not whatever they imagined it was that caused the major overreaction in the first place.

The response

What you see when you watch one of these videos is a classic example of the cat’s fight or flight response in action-Fright, swiftly followed by flight. Interestingly, virtually all of the cats flee rather than attempt to fight or stand their ground, which indicates that whatever it is that the cats initially think the cucumber is, they instinctively view it as something that it would not be a good idea to try to take on in a fight, ergo while they are often still in the throes of their first exaggerated horror reaction at the sight of their foe, they take off as fast as possible.

The explanation

The whole phenomenon of cats being scared by cucumbers when eating and their owners posting their videos on the internet afterwards is something that has only been happening over the course of the last couple of months, and obviously, it is not possible to ask each cat that reacts badly what on earth was going on in their heads! However, the most widely accepted explanation of this odd behaviour, and the one that makes the most logical sense too, is that cats catch a glimpse of the long, cylindrical cucumber out of the corner of their eye when there was nothing there before, and immediately go into panic mode, because their minds process the initial glimpse that they see as one of the greatest universal predators; the snake.

This explanation is entirely plausible, as the fear of snakes in small domestic mammals is an inherent one, and cats do not need to have ever seen or come into contact with a snake in their own lifetimes to exhibit it!

Interestingly, when cats hiss and flatten their ears in a threat display, they are mimicking the flat-headed appearance and hissing of snakes, and so the evolutionary interconnection between the two species goes back for millennia, well beyond the first days of the domestication of our feline pets!

Should you try it out on your own cat?

Some of the videos of cats overreacting to the sight of a surprise cucumber when there is nothing actually to fear can be undeniably amusing, and many people’s responses when they see their first video is to get a cucumber and attempt to replicate the response in their own cat, lying in wait until their cat has sat down to their meal and then slipping the cucumber down behind them.

Not only does this have potential entertainment value, but also, it is understandable to wonder if your cat will fall for the trick or not.

So, should you try it out on your own cat? The simple answer is a resounding NO.

Practical jokes are a very human form of entertainment, and even between people, not everyone agrees that they are fair and fun. Pranking your cat to the point that they panic and flee might potentially be funny to you, but it will not be at all amusing to your cat! Additionally, doing something like this to your cat when they are eating, and so, should feel relaxed and secure, is even worse.

There is never a good reason to deliberately scare your cat, especially for a joke-and if your cat is elderly, has a heart problem or is otherwise not totally fit, doing so might actually be dangerous. Even in young, fit cats, breaching their trust by scaring them when they are eating is unfair and may affect their comfort levels when fed in future, and so put simply, it is not a good or kind idea to try the cucumber prank on your own cat.



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