Cats and Cucumbers: Why Are They Afraid?
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It's safe to say that cats and cucumbers have a tenuous relationship at best. Countless videos show cats jumping at the sight of them, but why are cats scared of cucumbers? Here's a closer look at cats and cucumbers: Why cukes make cats crazy, and whether it's safe to startle your feline friend with them.
Why Are Cats Scared of Cucumbers?
Much like the cat quirk of sitting on the floor in a "box" made out of tape, a cat jumping at the sight of a cucumber may seem like unusual behavior, but this response is based on instinct. If you're hoping to try this cucumber prank, keep in mind that it relies on the quiet placement of the cucumber just out of the cat's view. Once the cat turns to see what their human is doing, the cat may become startled by the unexpected presence of an object that wasn't there before.
As the American Association of Feline Practitioners, explains, cats have such a superior sense of smell (and hearing) that "stress can occur due to strong or strange smells or sounds." Unless a cat spends a fair amount of time around produce, they are going to be on high alert when confronted with the strange smell of a cucumber. A cat may also get spooked at the sight of a cucumber for any of the following reasons.
The anxiety caused by the presence of a cucumber is compounded by the fact that this prank typically is pulled while a cat is eating. As many cat parents know, their fur baby's feeding area is sacred ground. Cats are hard-wired to be very territorial of their food, and for all they know, this cucumber may be poised to steal some kibble. A cat sees that cucumber is a threat, and when confronted with a "threatening situation," explain PAWS Chicago, cats respond with fear and anxiety. This instinctive reaction is visible when a cat is surprised by a cucumber: jumping up or, conversely, freezing in place; fur standing up; yelping and so on.
Fear of Snakes
Although domestic cats are still more predator than prey, there are a few hunters that prey on cats, including coyotes, birds of prey and snakes. Some experts theorize that cats associate the shape of a cucumber with that of a snake; however, not all agree with this theory. Not only do cats sometimes hunt snakes, says Dr. Pamela Perry, a behavioral specialist at Cornell Feline Health Center, but depending on their personality, some cats are more easily frightened: "It might be the fearful ones who are most likely to react to the appearance of a strange object behind them that was not there a minute earlier." Dr. Perry cautions that with consistent teasing, a cat will associate fear with the human playing the prank, not just the cucumber.
Is It Safe to Scare My Cat with a Cucumber?
It's entertaining to watch cats perform antics like cat zoomies, around the house or in videos, but scaring your kitty for entertainment value isn't fun for them. It causes cats unnecessary stress and anxiety, signs of which include trembling and aggression. Medical issues with stress include vomiting, diarrhea and hair loss. Cats that feel stressed or threatened will look for an escape route, which can lead to physical injury as they are jumping, leaping or running away.
Can Cats Eat Cucumbers?
Rather than play tricks on your cat, why not offer cucumbers as a refreshing snack? Your cat won't associate a sliced or diced cucumber with the tubular object that scares the daylights out of them.
Like other fruits that are safe for cats, cucumbers are a safe snack for your kitty. Offer them a small, seedless chunk of cucumber (but never the plant leaves, which are toxic) and see what happens. Before offering your cat other people foods, always do your research; there are many foods that are toxic to cats.
It may seem harmless, but using a cucumber to get a jump scare out of your kitty isn't healthy for their physical or emotional well-being. Instead, engage your furry friend in safe, fun activities that strengthen your loving bond.
Christine Brovelli-O'Brien, Ph.D., is an award-winning writer, long-time pet mom, and a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association (CWA). Find and follow Christine on Instagram @brovelliobrien