Why Are Cats Afraid Of Cucumbers?
You may have seen viral online videos of a cat scampering for dear life the moment it saw a cucumber. For most people, it is a funny sight. But for veterinarians and true lovers of the feline kind, it is a disheartening scenario. For one thing, the startled cat can get injured if it hits something sharp as it tries to “evade” the cucumber. Second, it can leave a deep scar in the feline’s psyche. While both the videos and the reactions that they generate from netizens are shocking, there’s still the question as to why felines are afraid of cucumbers.
Cats, Cucumbers, and Snakes
To answer the question, it is important to look at the elements of the viral videos. There are two fundamental elements that we need to discuss. The first one is the shape of the cucumber. For us humans, it doesn’t resemble a snake. However, its elongated shape and shiny skin do impart an image of a predatory animal that cats are quite afraid of: snakes.
Snakes come in different sizes. And while there are small snakes that a cat can find very easy to “manage”, there are those that are large enough to strike a hapless cat. The genes of domestic cats tell them that they should avoid snakes at all cost. These are animals that cats should never mess with. They may be small but they can inject venom into the hapless animal and wait for the toxin to exert its flesh-eating effects.
As such, when a cat sees a cucumber, the thing that its brain is telling the cat is that there’s a snake within striking distance. By virtue of self-preservation, the cat will have to do everything it can to escape. There’s no point in standing its ground. The cat knows that a snake can strike from a safe distance with lightning-quick precision.
Cats as Both Predators and Prey
The second element that is very pronounced in these viral videos is the manner in which the cucumber is introduced to the scene. If you look carefully, the person placing the cucumber always sneaks up behind the cat when it’s not looking. He or she utilizes the element of surprise to startle the cat and trigger its “flight” response.
One has to understand that the cat is both a predator and prey. Unlike its larger cousins in the wild (think tigers, lions, and leopards), the domestic cat is not on top of the food chain. It sits somewhere in the middle.
Indeed, the cat is a predator hunting small animals like rats, mice, birds, and other small creatures. However, it is also a prey for bigger and more vicious animals like coyotes and raccoons. And if you think the animals that prey on cats are only those that roam the land, there are also those that patrol the skies. Owls, eagles, and red-tailed hawks are notorious for preying on cats and small dogs.
In their natural environment, cats have to pay special attention to everything that occurs around them. This means they have to be on the lookout for prey animals so they’ll have something for dinner. They will scan their environment for the slightest sign of a prey.
However, they also have to heighten their situational awareness. They cannot get too focused on catching prey; otherwise, they can lose focus on protecting themselves from predators. In the wild, there are always bigger predators that are also looking for their next meal. If the cat is too focused on its prey, then it may not be able to “sense” the stealthy approach of a predator. You see, cats have to hunt prey while avoiding predators at the same time.
The point here is that domestic cats don’t like surprises. It shows them that they have very poor guarding instincts and that they cannot protect themselves from predators. When you sneak up on a cat, you are acting like the predator that it’s trying to evade. And when you do catch the cat by surprise, its natural reaction will be to run away as fast as its four limbs can.
Are Cats Really Afraid of Cucumbers?
It is now very easy to answer the question as to why cats seem to be afraid of cucumbers. First off, they are not afraid of cucumbers per se. It just so happens that cucumbers come in the shape of the animal that felines are hard-wired to evade. So, it is not the cucumber that they are afraid of. It’s the shape and appearance of the cucumber.
When you add to this the sneaky placement of the cucumber behind the cat when it’s not looking, then you’ve got your viral video. Cats do not like anything or anyone sneaking up on them. Now, when this “thing” happens to look like the animal that cats are genetically programmed to evade, then you’ll trigger the prey response in the cat. It will scamper for safety.
Dangers of Startling a Cat
Many viewers find these viral videos amusing and downright funny. For animal-lovers, it’s cruelty in the highest possible degree.
Cats can injure themselves in the process of “evading” the snakelike cucumber. They can run into a hard object and break their bones. If there are sharp items around, they can also cut themselves. If there are hot objects in the path of the cat’s egress, then the poor feline can also suffer from burn injuries.
These “physical” effects of startling a cat are minor compared to what can happen to its psychology. Wounds can heal but the emotional and psychological trauma of the experience can lead to a host of behavioral problems.
Cats are calm and relaxed. They have an easygoing nature that makes them lovable pets. Subjecting them to a traumatic experience can produce a cat that is very anxious, depressed, or aggressive. In short, you are creating more problems than you can manage.
These viral videos may be fun to watch. However, if you were the cat, would you still consider it to be amusing?