Why Are Cats Terrified of Cucumbers?

This article was originally published in November, 2015. 

A video of cats being absolutely terrified of cucumbers went viral recently bringing an unknown vegetable and feline rivalry to light.

The video is a compilation of home videos of people ‘pranking’ their cats. While the pet has their back turned, mostly while they’re eating and facing their food bowl, the owner sneakily places a cucumber behind them and when the cat turns around, a freak out of major proportions ensues. So why are the usually stoic felines so scared of a vegetable?

According to Pam Johnson-Bennett, best-selling author of seven books on cat behavior and host of the Animal Planet UK series Psycho Kitty, the cucumber has very little to do with it.

“When a cat goes to the food bowl he thinks of that place as a safe area. He goes there every day, he knows what happens and what it looks like and he knows there’s no danger,” Johnson-Bennett told Care2. “In the videos they’re putting something where the cat knows there’s nothing there. I’m not sure the reaction wouldn’t be the same if, say, a tennis ball was placed behind them.”

Another aspect of it is that a cucumber does have a slight resemblance to a snake, which might trigger the pet’s survival instinct.

“Cats are small enough that they’re not just predators, they’re also prey so they have to be very aware of their actions and surroundings,” added Johnson-Bennett. “Cucumbers’ color and their shape could resemble a snake, so from a cat’s point of view, there’s something stalking behind them.”

Whatever the reason for their reaction, however, to Johnson-Bennett the most important take-away from the video is that no cat owner should ever attempt to do this at home.

“It’s cruel,” she says. “These are living creatures and we’re treating them as entertainment. You’re creating a fear in an animal that wasn’t expecting it. Depending on the cat, it could be a traumatic episode that could affect how the cat reacts in day-to-day situations.”

Feeding, for example, could become a stressful situation since the cat now associates the place where they eat as a danger zone. In a multi-cat household, the cat that was just scared could lash out at another as a way of redirecting their anger, leading to a fight that could completely change the dynamic between them and turn into an on-going conflict with regular fighting. The main idea is that the cats don’t understand that this was just a prank.

“If we go to a haunted house or scare each other, we give that permission. We get to explain to each other afterwards that it was just a joke but you can’t do that to a cat,” says Johnson-Bennett.

So next time you want to reach for a cat video for some entertainment, reach for one where cats are willing (and adorable) participants. We highly recommend How to Wrap a Cat for Christmas and Surprise Kitty (an oldie but a goodie!) to get you started.

346 comments

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill18 days ago

Love the kitties

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Amanda M
Amanda M2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda M2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Filomena C
Filomena C2 months ago

Thanks!

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Pat P
Pat P2 months ago

I see far too many videos on-line showing humans "teasing" cats. Unfortunately, many of them are terrifying cats--thinking its funny. What kind of person gets a thrill out of scaring an animal? A sadistic one. Cat caretakers need to be more sensitive in how they treat their pets--not as objects or a form of entertainment!

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Melanie St. Germaine
Melanie S2 months ago

My cat beats up the cucumber!

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Danuta W
Danuta W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Chad A
Chad A2 months ago

Odd. I had no idea.

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