Ever watched YouTube videos of cats jumping up and scurrying away after noticing a cucumber either beside or behind them? Maybe you have tried it on your cat, and witnessed your cat reacting strangely to the harmless fruit. This got you wondering why your cat was behaving strangely to the harmless fruit.
Animal behaviourists have come up with two theories in attempting to explain cats' weird reaction to a cucumber. They are:
a) Snake Predation
b) Taken Off-guard
a) Snake Predation
Even though cats are domesticated animals, they still have wild instincts embedded in them, similar to wild animals. One of such instincts is to stay on guard so as not to be taken by surprise by a predator, in other words, they are alert to any threat that may threaten their survival.
When a cat's head is buried in a bowl, it's an indication the cat feels safe where it is - the surrounding is free from threat.
When the cat turns, after finishing its food, and sights the cucumber, it jumps up, and runs away. This implies the cat, shocked at seeing something that wasn't there, mistook the cucumber for a snake due to the outline of the fruit that resembles snake. Shock, an emotional response, is replaced with another emotion, fear. The emotional response of fear forces the cat to react in two ways - face the predator or run away from it. It runs away to save its life.
A few of the cats, curious at what that thing is, return to the spot where they're eating, and stare the thing, at a distance. Still, fewer of those that have returned to the spot near the thing, and smell it, to determine what it is.
When a cat is in the company of its owner, it feels safe. It considers its environment safe from harm. This explains why a cat hurries to its food bowl when it hears food being put in it, or when the owner calls it to eat food. It doesn't think twice because of the faith it has placed on its owner as not a threat.
Also, when it nears its food, it's observant of the bowl's surrounding. Thus, it is startled when it sees the cucumber because that thing wasn't there. This can be noted in humans. Let's say, as an example, you are alone in your house. You head to kitchen to prepare tea. You turn to go to sitting room to switch on television. As you turn, you see a person standing on the kitchen's doorway. You'll be surprised, or even shocked, because of their unexpected presence.
Now, shock will give in to fear when you perceive the person as a threat. Fear produces three types of responses - be on defensive, run away from the threat (the person), or freeze (undecided whether to face the person or run away).
The cats run away because the shock of seeing the thing (cucumber) that didn't make noise when it neared them was replaced by fear. And the fear compelled them to run away rather than face what they deemed as a threat so as to save their dear life.
Some cats return to ascertain what the thing is. After having run away, they contemplated their reaction, and because of their curious nature, return to determine what that thing is.
Science ABC notes,
If you have seen such videos of cats getting scared of cucumbers you might have noticed that cucumbers are deliberately put behind cats when they are peacefully enjoying a meal with their heads buried in their food bowl. Cats only eat when they are sure that they are not immediately threatened by anything/anyone in the vicinity; in other words, cats associate their 'food stations' as areas where they are perfectly safe and secure.
Mike Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant told Mental Floss that cats are not inherently afraid of cucumbers.
Cats are creatures of habit, and Delgado thinks the cats in those videos - who were often ambushed from behind while bent forward eating - were simply caught off-guard while engaging in a familiar activity.
"The cat's fright can be likened to how we sometimes jump up or scream after we turn around and see someone standing behind us...
The Business Insider states that it's not entirely true cats are afraid of cucumbers.
According to animal behaviour specialist Dr. Roger Mugford, cats would be scared of just anything you put behind them without them noticing. “I suspect that there would be the same reaction to a model spider, a plastic fish or a human face mask,” says Mugford. He suggests that it might just be fear of the unknown, and a surprise pineapple could be just as scary as a cucumber.
There is no agreeable reason why cats are scared at the sight of a cucumber as noted by Huffington Post. They state nobody knows for sure why cats are afraid of cucumbers. However, they state, "....behavior experts suspect it's less about fear, and more about the element of surprise."
Why Are Cats Terrified of Cucumbers?!
The Risk of Scaring Cats with Objects, including Cucumber
Animal behaviour experts warn cats' owners not to scare cats for a hilarious reaction. They say the act itself affects the cats psychologically and their need to escape from the object might lead the cats in harming themselves physically.
Unlike canines, it takes time for a feline to trust a human being who it regards as a 'big cat.' When you scare it in any way it will develop different reactions both physically and psychologically. It might injure itself or someone close to it. Psychologically, it will become scared of you. Every time it sees you, it runs away or hides. It will become scared of various spots in the house such as ‘food station’ spots. Regaining its trust might be impossible or will take a considerable time for it to finally warm up to you.
Dr. Frank McMillan, Director of Well-Being Studies at the Best Friends Animal Society told People Pets,
The (cat's) reflux fear reaction is very forceful and the cat could crash into furniture or land on something injurious.
Additionally, he stated that
violating your cat's trust for the sake of getting a laugh can harm the bond you have with your pet, leading your feline to trust you less and feel unsafe. This kind of anxiety can lead a cat to stop eating and/or stop using the litter box."
© 2018 Alianess Benny Njuguna
Alianess Benny Njuguna (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on March 29, 2018:
Thank you Peggy. I wouldn't do the same. In our side it is funny but not so on the side of the cat.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 29, 2018:
I would never purposely scare our cat or cats when we had two of them. What you wrote makes perfect sense. Your title should get people's attention. Good job!