We have all seen them, the videos on the internet showing that cats are terrified – utterly terrified – of cucumbers. Why on Earth is this? What possible reason could a cat have for a deep-seated fear of a harmless vegetable (or is it a fruit? It’s a fruit, isn’t it?).
In the majority of the on-line videos, the cat owners can be seen sneaking up behind their pets as they’re facing the other way, usually with their head in a food bowl, and placing the green, elongated vegetable (or fruit?) behind them. As the cat turns around and catches sight of the cucumber, it goes crazy, leaps into the air, and scuttles away from it as fast as its four little legs can carry it. In some videos, the cats then engage in a strange staring contest with the cucumber, waiting in vain for it to make its first move.
But the question remains: What possible reason could there be for cats to be frightened by these long green objects (I have given up on the fruit v vegetable debate and am henceforth sticking with ‘object’!)
Interestingly, there is no footage of cats catching sight of a cucumber from a great distance, stealthily sidling alongside, and then squaring up to it, so perhaps it’s the unexpected sight of a cucumber appearing where once there was zero cucumber that’s frightening, not the cucumber itself: as a scientific website states, “An unexpected pineapple would likely be just as jarring.”
As Dr. Roger Mugford, a specialist in animal behavior, told the Telegraph: “I think that the reaction is due to the novelty and unexpectedness of finding an unusual object secretly placed whilst their heads were down in the food bowl.”
Jill Goldman, a certified animal behaviorist, told National Geographic that it’s possible the cats’ first instinct is to assume that the cucumber is a snake, which can be a deadly predator, and when you think about it, since you wouldn’t find a cucumber or similar object on the floor, and since the cat didn’t see or hear the cucumber approach, it isn’t an unreasonable assumption. They may well react in a similar way to an unexpected harmless stuffed dog or giant plastic spider.
Whatever the cause, it isn’t very nice to scare your pets. In fact, it’s pretty cruel. And it could be very bad for them.
Scaring your pets by tricking them into thinking a deadly predator is nearby can cause them to injure themselves or break something once they try to leap away, and it can lead to long-term stress.
“If you cause stress to an animal that’s probably not a good thing,” Goldman told National Geographic. “If you do it for laughs it makes me question your humanity.”
Basically, don’t scare your pets with vegetables. Or fruit for that matter.