Why Is My Cat Terrified Of Cucumbers?
Cats and cucumbers definitely don't mix.
By now you’ve probably seen one of the “cats vs. cucumbers” video compilations that have swept the internet. (But if you haven’t, you can check out what happens when this kitty finds out that a cucumber snuck up on her.)
While these videos are funny to watch, you may be wondering: “Why are cats scared of cucumbers?”
Cucumbers might seem like a pretty strange thing for cats to be afraid of. After all, they’re totally harmless. So why do cats get so freaked out by them?
We spoke to Dr. Alex Blutinger, a veterinarian with BluePearl Pet Hospital in New York City, to find out what makes cats so afraid of cucumbers.
Why are cats scared of cucumbers? Three possible reasons
1. Cats don’t like to be surprised
One theory for why cats are scared of cucumbers is that they just don’t like the vegetable sneaking up on them — similar to how you might get scared if someone suddenly came up behind you.
“If I put a plastic spider on the floor behind you or a mannequin in the entrance of your apartment, chances are you would have a momentary freak-out before realizing either wasn’t real,” Dr. Alex Blutinger told The Dodo.
As cat parents know, cats keep up a pretty cool front. They like to always be aware of what’s going on around them, and they only settle down to eat or nap when they know there aren’t any immediate dangers around.
So in those videos, when you see the cat’s owner sneak that creepy cucumber behind her while she’s eating, the fact that she isn't expecting anything to be right behind her is enough to make her literally jump in shock.
Many of these videos are also done while a cat is eating. A cat’s food bowl or eating area is a safe place for her, so she’s not expecting anything to invade her space, which could lead her to be particularly scared.
2. Cucumbers might look like snakes
Your cat might also think that the cucumber behind her looks like a snake.
“While we know cats as being predators (for our NYC apartment mice), they are also animals of prey,” Dr. Blutinger said.
Cats are both predators and prey in the wild, so they have an instinct to avoid anything that seems like a threat to them.
“While most of the cats that we know have been domesticated, they retain their innate, instinctual drive to protect themselves from predators as they would in the wild (e.g., from coyotes, owls, dogs and snakes),” Dr. Blutinger said. “Cucumbers and bananas may resemble snakes or other predatory species to a cat.”
(Though the jury’s still out on this one — some experts think the theory of cats hating surprises or changes to their routines makes more sense as cats would not be likely to get scared by such a small “snake.” But no one really knows!)
3. Some cats are more anxious than others
Not every cat is scared of cucumbers. So why do some cats have a reaction, while others don’t?
One theory is that cats who tend to be more fearful or anxious are more likely to be afraid of cucumbers simply because they’re more easily frightened in general.
Every cat has her own personality. Some cats are more fearless and curious, while others are timid and shy. So if you have a cat who tends to be very curious, she may be more interested in finding out what the cucumber is rather than being scared of it.
Is it bad to scare your cat with a cucumber?
While those videos of cats and cucumbers are pretty funny, you shouldn’t try it with your cat. It’s actually scary for her, and it can be stressful.
“Cats are also creatures of habit and can become severely stressed with deviations in their routines or environment,” Dr. Blutinger said. “Stress can even lead to life-threatening complications, such as feline urinary tract disease, a disorder causing cats to obstruct their urethra — a life-threatening emergency.”
If a cat jumps and tries to flee from the cucumber, she could also injure herself by jumping onto or bumping into something hard or sharp.
Another reason not to scare your cat is that if you tease her with a cucumber often (or with other things she’s afraid of), your cat could begin to associate her fear with you rather than the object. You obviously don’t want your cat to be scared of you, so you should keep your pranks to a minimum.
So while the “cats vs. cucumber” videos had their moment, we still recommend keeping your cucumbers off the floor and in your salads.