Cats have always been a little on the nervous side and easily startled. Now, due to the internet, cats everywhere are now learning something new they are afraid of. Cat owners all over the globe are posting pictures of themselves surprising their feline with a fruit, yes, fruit – the cucumber. Videos have been popping up showing cats unexpectedly seeing a cucumber and jumping out of their skin, running, or hissing and clawing at the green thing in front of them.
The question is, are cats and cucumbers really enemies? People may wonder if somewhere in the history of cats, an ancestor had a bad experience with a salad or didn’t like having a cucumber scratching post. According to Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant who has studied animal behavior and human-pet relationships, and is a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, cats are not inherently afraid of cucumbers.
He went on to tell Mental Floss, that the videos people are seeing of cats jumping over cucumbers, are basically cats that were caught off guard. Cats are creatures of habit and when they are ambushed, like in the videos, they get startled easily and will jump or run away quickly. That is what is happening in the videos. It just happens to be that it is a cucumber that was secretly placed in their path and it took them by surprise.
Cats are like us, he explains, in that our eyes are forward facing, so you look forward. Cats aren’t looking behind them, but in front, as any predator would do. Most of the cats in the videos are eating at the time of the prank, and they are focused on their food, not expecting a strange object to be placed behind them. When they turn around, it startles them to see a strange object, the cucumber, and they jump. When you compile a bunch of similar videos together, it appears that all cats have a fear of a cucumber.
The reaction of these cats, according to Delgado, is similar to a person’s reaction if you were forward-facing and turned around to find someone you weren’t excepting, be standing there. It would frighten or startle you. He continues by saying that we all laugh at those moments of watching a cat get scared, but when the laughing is over, what it boils down to is that it isn’t good to subject your cat to that kind of fear. Especially when they are eating.
You want your cat to feel safe and secure with you and in their environment. “If cats don’t eat, they can become sick quite fast, and develop what’s called fatty liver disease.” Plus, “stress can have really serious health effects on cats,” Delgado adds. He says that has been a lot of research that has proven to show that even subtle changes in a cat’s routine can have a bad effect on their behavior. The changes are what are experts call, sickness behaviors: vomiting, not using their litter box, diarrhea, changes in appetite. Cats are very sensitive creatures.
With this being said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change anything in your home. When you do introduce new items, maybe a new piece of furniture, or anything else, let your cat check it out on their terms; sniff it and get used to it. It’s a good idea to try to show your cat that it isn’t scary. But if you force your cat to check it out rather than allow them to on their on time and pace, it can have the opposite effect and make them more afraid of it. Over time, the object begins to look and smell more familiar. Eventually your cat will relax.
In the meanwhile, cat owners and other people interacting with cats, should leave the cucumbers to the salads and let the cat enjoy his dinner without having to worry that a cucumber is going to end up behind them and scare them off their feet.