Who hasn’t spent the evening after evening scrolling through adorable cat videos online?! There probably isn’t a cat lover out there who hasn’t seen these cat videos which are taking the internet by storm: Curious cats’ vs. cucumbers! Sounds ridiculous?These tiny lions that are known to think nothing of exploring dark corners, jumping from tall surfaces are in fact terrified of this common vegetable. Based on the dozen YouTube videos which show the exact same reaction of our feline friends to cucumbers: scampering away, jumping in the air or even preparing to battle the green goblin!
To be fair, none of these cat videos contain footage of a cat seeing a cucumber from a distance and then going up to it and checking it out. Hence the scared reaction is probably due to the unexpected sight of the cucumber behind them. Probably an unexpected pineapple would have been just as jarring. (Cats Afraid of Cucumber)
Are our feline friends scared of salad just like us? Or are our pets really ‘scaredy’ cats like all the cartoons make them out to be?
Or is it something else?
Dr. Roger Mugford an animal behavior specialist reported that such a strong reaction is due to the unexpectedness and novelty of finding an unusual object placed secretly while they were busy with their heads inside the food bowl.
Cats, in general, are very suspicious of objects that make a lot of noise, moves rapidly or even ones that light up erratically: basically anything that they don’t completely understand, which isn’t different at all from humans. It must also be understood that cats are solitary animals whereas us humans are social animals- so they’re confused enough by us as it is. Scaring them with unexpected objects like the cucumber isn’t good for them! (Cats Afraid of Cucumber)
Mugford further added that cats have to be suspicious of the unknown as it is their survival instinct kicking in when the object could potentially be a snake or another predator and he suspects that the same reaction would occur when a feline is exposed to a model spider, fish or even a face mask used by humans.
Jill Goldman, an animal behaviorist spoke National Geographic about a feline’s first instinct: they assume that the cucumber is a deadly predator! Since a cucumber or a similar object aren’t usually found on the floor, and because our pet doesn’t hear or see the cucumber approach, this isn’t an unreasonable assumption.
Whatever may be the cause, it isn’t very nice to frighten your pets and also it’s potentially harmful for them.
Stress isn’t just bad for us humans, it can be disastrous for our pets as well. Goldman told National Geographic about the lack of humanity of those who scare their pets just for a few laughs and entertainment online. Scaring your kitten by tricking them with a cucumber (which to them may seem like a deadly predator), can cause them to break something when they try to escape and hurt themselves in the process and in the long run, the stress can be quite disastrous to them. (Cats Afraid of Cucumber)
Dr. Christopher Pachel of the Animal Behavior Clinic, Oregon expressed that cats may experience a small degree of stress naturally. Intentionally scaring an animal is not only cruel but also could have an adverse impact on the animal in many ways. Even a single traumatic event can increase the tendency of an animal to experience anxiety and also more severe outcomes such as PTSD or ever redirected aggression.
Aside from the physical and mental trauma cucumbers may cause our feline friends, the social aspect of us using cats for entertainment value is quite shameful. Colleen O’ Brien, the senior director of PETA explained that the animals we keep as pets are always there for us, and they are dependents on us for care and love. Hence as their guardians, we should protect them from any kind of trauma or stress- not try to induce those for just a cheap laugh and likes on social media.
Another animal behavior expert- Rachel Malamed, an LA based Veterinary Behavior Specialist talks about how the ‘cats afraid of cucumber phenomenon’ may not be the case in all our feline friends.
She went on to speculate on the number of cats that must have been videotaped before concluding that this phenomenon applies to all cats. She explained that out of 100 cats, a very small percentage may have experienced the fear of cucumbers. Just as unusual fears exist amongst human beings, Malamed reported that a small percentage of cats also fit the same bill or they may have simply been surprised by the sudden appearance of the cucumber.
Whether or not all felines have the same response, she agrees that for those cats who do have the said negative reaction, the consequences can be quite dire.
The cat may become increasingly scared of that stimulus after repeated exposure. She went on to explain that if a single exposure was intense, a lasting memory of the phobia( involving the amygdala) in association with the stimuli takes place and the cat may become more fearful and even more aggressive after repeated exposure.
Malamed explains that the fear may also trigger a generalization of other similar stimuli for example green objects or they may even associate people or events or other animals with the intensely negative event. For example, the feline friend who ate before experiencing the intense scare may associate the fear eliciting stimuli or the unconditioned stimuli with the food (conditioned stimuli). This phenomenon is known as classical conditioning and hence what may feel like a ‘funny prank’ may have a long lasting and severe implication for your pets. (Cats Afraid of Cucumber)
Instead of scaring our feline friends with certain vegetables just for some online amusement, we should be finding ones that keep them happy and healthy. So next time you want to upload a cat video, feed your kitty a treat or cuddle with him instead of scaring your lovable little pet!