Videos of startled cats leaping away from cucumbers can be seen everywhere on the internet. But while they may be amusing, experts on animals caution that this trend can cause harm to your cat and damage the bond between you and your pet in the future.
A seemingly strange phobia
Have you ever seen a video of a cat being startled by a cucumber? If so, you might be wondering why. After all, cucumbers are harmless, right?
The truth is, cats are not actually scared of cucumbers. In fact, cats are not scared of much at all. What cats are afraid of is the unexpected, which is why they tend to react so strongly when they see a cucumber. They are not scared of the cucumber itself, but rather, the unexpectedness of seeing it in an unexpected place.
It is important to note that cats can also be startled by other objects, such as plastic bags or large toys.
What is it about cucumbers that make cats scared?
Though cats are commonly viewed as predators, they can also be prey. Their domestication does not override their natural inclination to be vigilant of possible threats, particularly animals that could view them as a meal.
When a cucumber is placed in an unexpected area near a cat, such as a water bowl or doorway, it usually elicits a fear-defense instinct in the cat. This is similar to the human body's fight-or-flight reaction.
The cat’s behavior has no correlation with the cucumber itself.
According to Joey Lusvardi, a feline behavioral specialist, it is likely that the response to certain stimuli would be similar between humans and other animals.
He explains that if you're searching for something in your refrigerator and then you turn around to find a box that wasn't there a moment before, it can be quite a shock and leave you feeling puzzled. The box itself likely isn't alarming, but the occurrence itself is out of the ordinary.
Should I play a joke on my furbaby with a cucumber?
Contemplating whether you should join the popular trend of cats and cucumbers?
Lusvardi emphatically states that the answer is a resounding no. They are frightened and the cat is being made to feel scared on purpose.
He believes that it is cruel and it could eventually lead to behavioral problems.
What can happen is that cats might enter a defensive state, which could vary from fleeing from the frightful object to even attacking it. In such a case, the cat may inadvertently lash out at you, other cats, or other pets in the house.
All in all, it is an unkind stunt that teaches a feline that their food bowl is not a secure place. If done repeatedly, this can have a psychological impact on the cat, making them experience anxiety whenever they are in that same place.
With the passage of time, long-term stress can result in a cat's reluctance to engage, aggression, more frequent stretching, inappropriate elimination, and other undesired behavior.
Rather than poking fun at your kitty, make an effort to create a connection with them. Let them make the first move, such as wanting to be petted. When they come to you, use rewards, such as a snack or playtime to reinforce your bond with them.
An insider's perspective
It is ill-advised to engage in the common, yet dubious, social media fad of startling cats with cucumbers.
According to Lusvardi, declining to follow this trend is beneficial not just for cats.
Startling your feline companion with a cucumber can create a sense of fear and anxiety in their home environment. If it happens repeatedly, it can lead to aggressive behavior and the marking of their territory, which I'm sure you want to avoid!