Cats and cucumbers! Really!
On social media we stumble across many viral video pranks like the ones featuring cats fleeing in fear or bouncing into the air, at the mere sight of a cucumber placed beside or behind them.
Most people are shocked to see this bizarre jumping reaction of the cats when they see a cucumber. As it turns out, this terrifying and startling reaction is not due to the cucumber, after all it is a mere vegetable. It has more to do with the nature of the prank and the maybe the resemblance of cucumber to a snake. Let’s take this last one with a grain of salt while we investigate.
Cucumbers might Remind the Cats of Deadly Snakes
A cucumber, at a stretch, looks somewhat like one of nature’s deadliest predators – the snake. Snakes are known to attack and even eat cats. So, the cucumber’s resemblance to a life-threatening predator could be alarming and intimidating for a cat. Does this explain the leaping and freaking out of the cats in the videos?
However many cats do not possess a fear of snakes. Some cats even hunt snakes for eating. It makes us wonder what makes all the cats go crazy, if it is not just the resemblance of snakes?
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Cats are Not Big Fans of Surprises
As per the opinions of the experts and professionals, it is not the cucumber that scares the cat, but almost anything that sneaks up on them is enough for the cats to get terrified.
Cats are generally very sharp and alert animals, which is why they are always vigilant and have excellent situational awareness.
Most of us have seen those prank videos of cats getting freaked out by cucumbers. Undoubtedly, everyone must have noticed that the cucumbers are deliberately placed behind the cats. Plus they are not paying attention when they are peacefully enjoying a meal with their heads deep in the food bowl.
Cats usually eat when they are sure there is no threat in the surroundings. In other words, they are super careful about their food and thus associate their ‘food stations’ as areas with known typical elements of surprise or where they feel safe and secure, which is why they prefer familiar surroundings.
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But in this case, when cats spot a green cucumber lying on the floor behind them when it wasn’t there minutes before, it freaks them out because they didn’t expect it to be there. Let’s face it, we would be scared if some unexpected thing suddenly appears and often this does give us a fright.
According to various animal behaviourists, the reaction is due to the novelty and unexpectedness of finding an unusual object secretly placed near them when their heads were down in the food bowl. Cats would not usually find cucumbers lying around them on the floor, so the sheer novelty of the whole action makes them feel unsafe, resulting in the over the top reaction.
Why Cats Are So Afraid Of Cucumbers
Unfamiliar or foreign objects that might look threatening to the cat initiate the cat’s ‘startle response’ or fight or flight response due to the adrenaline rush. In cats, flight response is pretty dominant in such situations.
The cat responds to these dramatic situations usually by jumping, increasing the heart rate. Body posture turns aggressive for possible danger. The cat’s muscles stiffen and the back arches to create an aggressive stance. Their heart rate and the fear response reach the roof.
These types of responses are not only limited to cats, but humans and every other animal also respond to surprises in similar ways.
Many of us have most probably jumped or screamed at the sight of a spider or a lizard on the wall and noticed that there is an adrenaline rush that makes our heart race, and we feel a little jittery for a short amount of time.
After this sudden experience has passed, it takes a while to return to a normal state. The heartbeat slows down, the hormone levels start to normalize, and body posture eases.
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Why is it Not Ideal to Indulge in Pranks with Our Cats?
Watching a cat jump and bounce in the air due to sheer fright might be a hilarious thing for us, but it is not funny or amusing for the cat. As explained earlier, cats get frightened by the sudden and unexpected appearance of a cucumber or any unfamiliar object. It may be astonishing to witness once or twice but it is not funny at all for the cat.
The cats jump away in such a hurry to prevent a possible attack. In a hurry to get away, the cat does not see or care about its surroundings. It only focuses on getting away, so in this process, the cat may break something valuable to us or hurt someone in the vicinity or even injure itself. Why cats are so afraid of cucumbers actually has nothing to do with the cucumber.
Not only can physical harm be caused, but some researchers have also found that almost every animal, be it a cat or a dog, experiences a negative psychological impact due to this startle response trigger.
We should know that repeated surprises can induce anxiety and sustained stress. Stress and anxiety play a significant role in ruining our pet’s health and partially impairing their immune system, making them more prone to various diseases.
Moreover, trying to scare a cat or any pet is ethically wrong and cruel too. Taking a feeling of pleasure in someone’s misery is not an excellent quality to possess or cultivate.
Instead of frightening the cat with the cucumber, we should try to introduce it and other foreign objects to the cat gradually, not suddenly. Try to introduce the cucumber or other object where the cat can see it, so that the cat does no feel threatened.
Prolonged exposure to cucumbers will allow the cats to differentiate the harmless edible vegetable from life-threatening snakes.