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Why Are Cats Afraid of Cucumbers?

Updated on September 16, 2019
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Ever watched a YouTube video of a cat jumping up and scurrying away after noticing a cucumber either beside or behind it? Why does the cat look terrified, acting strangely when it notices the cucumber? Is there a connection between the harmless fruit and the cat that goes back to an enmity that arose between the ancestral cats and cucumbers (probably gigantic cucumbers)?

If you look at the videos, you'll see a cat's head is buried in a bowl. While the cat is eating the food, the cat's owner puts a cucumber behind or besides it. The cat, which has either finished its food or has taken rest from eating looks at the surrounding before it gets back to eating or to engage in another activity. As it looks around, it notices the cucumber. Its eyes grow big as it stares at the fruit. Suddenly, it leaps on the air and runs away from the cucumber. A few seconds later, it nears the fruit, out of curiosity, to find out what it is. Some cats never come close to the spot where the cucumber is after running away.

Is it true cats are afraid of cucumbers? Animal behavioral experts have come up with two theories to try to explain the cats' unexpected behavior after noticing a cucumber nearby.

The Theories: Snake Predator and Taken Off-Guard

The first theory asserts the cat was caught off guard the reason it leaped up on the air and ran away. It didn't notice the thing coming closer. The thing didn't make any sound, which is something cats hate - to be caught off guard.

The second explanation is that cats are afraid of snakes. Snakes have the capability of killing cats. Thereby, they are easy prey for snakes. When it notices the cucumber which seems to resemble a green snake, or so, it has to defend itself from being bitten thereby falling as a prey. Therefore, it runs away to escape from impeding death and maybe to arm itself if the snake pursues it.

Why Cats Are Scared of Cucumbers

The above two theories can be explained with the following two examples from a human point-of-view - when caught off guard and realizing the predator that was crawling stealthily without your notice was a snake.

Your full attention is directed at something you're doing, for example, you're reading a book while sitting on the chair. You are holding the book which is close to your face. When you take a break from reading, you put the book on the side of the table. You notice a snake on the table. It isn't moving and is not showing any sign it's alive. How will you react?

Some will fall down on the floor as they try to escape from the impeding danger while others will scream as they try to run off from the predator. Why? We fear snakes knowing what will happen next when a snake bites us. Therefore, we run away to save our dear lives and probably find ways of defending ourselves against the snake's attack.

In another scenario, you have gone to the bathroom for a short or long call. After fulfilling nature's call, you open the door to proceed to the sitting room or bedroom. When you open the door, you see a person standing like a statue, wearing a scaring mask, staring at you. You will freak out and scream. You didn't expect such a thing to occur. You were caught off guard. This is because your whole attention was directed at a certain activity. Thereby, when somebody surprises you then you will act in a terrified manner, feeling as if your heart is about to leap out of your body.

This applies to cats. The fact they didn't hear the sound of the cucumber, which they have mistaken for a snake, leads them to leap on the air and run away so that they don't fall as a prey to the snake.

Cats by nature will not engage in an activity that requires their full attention until they are sure they're safe from predators. Even though they stay at home, they still have wild animal's instinct. It's part of animals' tattoo: 'Survival for the fittest,' that is, do all you can to survive in the wild.

When the cat sees the cucumber which it has mistaken for a snake, it distances itself from it so as to defend itself from being killed.

Science ABC notes, "If you have seen such videos of cats getting stared 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. Mental Floss states, "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..."states Mental Floss.

Why Are Cats Terrified of Cucumbers?!

The Business Insider remarks 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."

The above are just theories which might offer true reasons why cats are afraid of cucumber. But, no one knows for sure why cats are afraid of cucumbers. Huffington Post observes nobody knows for sure why cats are afraid of cucumbers. However, "....behavior experts suspect it's less about fear, and more about the element of surprise."

The Risksof Scaring Cats with Objects

Animal behavior experts warn cats' owners not to scare cats though the reaction of the cat after seeing the cucumber appears hilarious. They say the act itself affect 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.' Thereby, when you scare it in any way it will develop different reactions both physically and psychologically. It might injure itself or someone/something close to it. Psychologically, it will hate you or become scared of you. Every time it sees you, it runs away or hides so as to avoid you. It will become scared of various spots in the house such as ‘food station’ spots. Regaining its trust might be impossible or will take longer 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 also says 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." (People Pets)

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    • Ben716 profile imageAUTHOR

      Benny Njuguna 

      18 months ago from Kenya

      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 W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      18 months ago from Houston, Texas

      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!

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