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Cats and Cucumbers - Our Behavior Expert Talks About Why Cats Are Freaking Out

Videos of cats leaping high into the air after being scared by cucumbers have gone viral over the last few months. So many people shared videos testing to see if their cats had similar reactions that YouTube put together a compilation of these videos and entitled it “Cats VS Cucumbers”. Many people have expressed concern about scaring cats this way while others consider it a harmless prank.

Different theories to explain why cats react this way have been suggested, including the idea that cucumbers remind cats of snakes but Cornell Feline Health Center’s Behaviorist Specialist, Dr. Pamela Perry disagrees.

“The cats in the videos may be reacting to the sudden appearance of a novel object,” said Perry. “Cats don’t have a natural fear of snakes.  In fact, a lot of them hunt snakes (I had one such cat who insisted on presenting her prey—still very much alive—at my feet!).”

If it’s not a fear of snakes, why are so many of the kitties freaking out? “Cats have different personalities,” said Perry. “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.”

So, could this sort of prank have lasting effects on a cat? Put simply, yes. Frightened cats experience physiological and behavioral stress responses, and as we all know, stress can have deleterious effects on both humans and animals.  Cats who are timid or fearful may associate other stimuli with the frightening event, such as the food dish, the location, etc.  The cat also can associate the owner with the prank, which  means a cat can become not only fearful of the harmless veggie – she can begin to fear you, her owner, cautions Perry. 

Although not all cats react the same way to cucumbers, we recommend abstaining from this trend. Instead, how about playing with them in a way you know they enjoy.