You may have seen viral videos of pet owners placing cucumbers behind their unsuspecting cats, only to have their cats turn to find the vegetable behind them, jump straight into the air, and run away. This scare tactic seems to have gathered popularity online, encouraging more and more cat owners to determine if they have a similarly fearful feline friend.
Cats are not inherently fearful of cucumbers, or any other produce. In fact, many pets enjoy the taste if offered a slice. It is less about the vegetable and more about the element of surprise that makes the phenomenon possible.
Feline Survival Techniques and Stress
The most common theory as to why cats appear to be afraid of cucumbers is that their shape, size, and color resemble a natural predator: snakes. For cats, jumping up and away from a potential danger, then assessing potential risk afterwards, is a survival technique. In addition to a release of stress hormones, a cat can hurt themselves when attempting to retreat from a perceived threat. Although the prank may seem harmless, your cat may become injured in an attempt to get away.
Although this explanation is only theoretical, one thing is for certain: causing undue stress to your cat is not advised and may even be considered inhumane. A stressful event, perceived as life-threatening, can cause physiologic stress to cats, increasing stress hormones in the body. Increased circulating stress hormones in cats can lead to upset stomach (vomiting and diarrhea), inflamed bladder (feline lower urinary tract disease), inappropriate elimination (urinating or defecating outside of the litter box), changes to behavior (aggression or hiding), and overgrooming of skin and haircoat.
Engaging With Your Cat
There is nothing entertaining about scaring your cat, especially when it can lead to lasting health or behavioral issues. Instead, consider spending quality time with your feline by playing with them, petting them, and enjoying their company.