The Jakarta Post
A cat looks warily at a pickle. (Shutterstock/veet)
Many of us have laughed at the viral YouTube videos of cats going wild over a mere cucumber. In the videos, the owner of a feline sneakily places a cucumber behind the cat as it faces the other way. When the cat turns around and notices the long green fruit’s appearance, it is immediately startled and leaps back in apparent fear.
While in a way it is hilarious to watch, the question remains: Why are cats so afraid of cucumbers?
Reader's Digest explores the theories behind this strange feline phobia about long green fruit, and why you should refrain from pulling the cucumber prank on your furry friend at home.
As it stands, there are several theories, but no definitive answer. Experts suggest that the cat’s intense response is not about the cucumber itself, but rather that the cucumber reminds the cat of a snake.
Animal behaviorist and author of Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals, Con Slobodchikoff told ABC News that it is engrained in a cat’s instinct to be afraid and respond accordingly.
“Cats are genetically hard-wired through instinct to avoid snakes. Cucumbers look enough like a snake to have the cat’s instinctive fear of snakes kick in,” said Slobodchikoff.
The second theory is based around the sudden appearance of a cucumber, similar to the human instinct of being frightened when someone sneaks up from behind. Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant who studied animal behavior and human-pet relationships as a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, told Mental Floss that reports and videos of other fruits and vegetables scaring cats support this theory.
Another animal behaviorist from southern California, Jill Goldman, explains that a cucumber prompts the cats’ natural startle responses.
“With a startle response, a cat will often try to get out of there as quickly as possible and then reassess from a distance,” she says. In the videos, it is clear that the cats are trying to distance themselves from the cucumber, potentially drawing back to assess the safety of the situation.
Despite the fact that YouTube videos of startled cats leaping away from cucumbers have taken the internet by a storm, it is not wise to try it out for your personal entertainment. Startled cats are likely to injure themselves, for instance if they hit something, and they may become stressed out in the long run. (geo/mut)