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Cats Scared By Cucumbers: Knowing the Facts Behind the Viral Phenomenon

By Aly Semigran    November 24, 2015 at 03:03PM / (8) comments

The Internet seems to have an endless fascination with putting cats in awkward situations. Namely, cats being put in awkward situations with some sort of food. (Case in point: Breaded Cats or Cats Reacting to Bananas.) The latest chapter in this viral phenomenon is cat owners filming their felines' terrified reactions to cucumbers. 


In most of the videos, a cucumber will be placed near an unsuspecting cat while they are eating or resting, and when they notice the vegetable, they panic and get scared. We wanted to know not only why cats have such a strong reaction to cucumbers in particular, but mainly the effects that this sort of stress can have on them. 


For reference, here is one of the compilation videos that has been making its way around the web: 



"While cats may experience some degree of stress naturally in their day-to-day lives, setting up a situation in which to intentionally scare an animal is inappropriate, and could have a negative impact on the animal in several ways," says Dr. Christopher Pachel, DVM, DACVB, CABC of the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Oregon. "Even a single traumatic experience can predispose an animal to significant anxiety, and more severe outcomes, such as redirected aggression or PTSD, are possible after such an experience." 


Aside from the mental and physical trauma cucumbers may cause the cats, there's the social aspect that we are using felines for entertainment value as well. As PETA Senior Director Colleen O’Brien explains, "Our animal companions are always there for us, and they depend on us to love them and care for them. Guardians should protect their cats from stress and trauma—not try to induce those things just for a cheap laugh."


Still, as Rachel Malamed, DVM, DACVB, a Los Angeles-based Veterinary Behavior Specialist, points out, this cat-scared-of-cucumbers phenomenon may not impact all of our feline friends.


"I wonder how many cats were videotaped before concluding that this is a phenomenon? For example, out of hundreds of cats that have likely now been subjected to this experiment, how many actually had this reaction? Perhaps only a small percentage," she says. "Just as unusual phobias exist amongst people, this subset of cats may fit that bill, or they were simply startled by the sudden appearance of the object." 


Whether or not all cats have the same response, Malamed agrees that for those cats who do have negative reactions, the consequences can be quite serious.


"The pet may become increasingly fearful of that stimulus upon repeat exposures," she says. "If a single exposure was intense enough, a lasting memory of fear (involving the amygdala) in association with the stimulus takes place and the pet may be become more reactive, fearful, and even aggressive upon subsequent exposure."


Malamed adds that fear reactions may also trigger other behavioral issues, such as re-directed aggression. She further explained that "the pet may generalize to other similar stimuli (e.g., green objects) or may associate events/people or other animals with the intensely negative experience," she says. "For example, the cat who ate just before experiencing intense fear may associate his food (conditioned stimuli) with the fear eliciting stimulus (unconditioned stimuli). This is called classical conditioning. So, what seems like a 'funny' trick may have more serious and long lasting implications for some cats." 


So rather than scaring our cats with certain vegetables for the amusement of the Internet, we should be finding ones to feed them to keep them healthy and happy. 



Image via YouTube

Comments  8

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  • WHY?
    12/11/2015 03:11pm

    Why, if you love your pet, would you do this kind of thing to it?

    This reminds me of a teenage girl who lived next door who used to think it was amusing to use a squirt gun on her cat for her own amusement, squirting the cat over and over again whenever it came into view.

    They then wondered why the cat was so aggressive, and after it had attacked members of the family several times, they ended up taking it to a shelter.

    SO sad that the stupidity of some pet owners ends up in the animal being euthanized.

  • 12/12/2015 10:25am

    I couldnt agree more with you. Im not sure why any pet owner would do this to there cat!!!! I know if I se my cat acting strangely to anything I might think is cute or funny, I stop right away!!! Some of these videos go on for 10-15 minutes!!! Laughing there asses off while that cats look like there going to have a heart attack. One of these days pets are going to get payback. Until that happens I have no problems at all doing it for them when I can. Nothing bothers me more than a defenseless cat or dog being abused by humans and thinking its funny. When I happen to come across things like this, payback is 3 times worse for them. Makes me sick.

  • Funny to scare an animal?
    12/11/2015 05:15pm

    Cats have an inherent suspicion and are very wary of snakes. The cucumber appearing suddenly and so close triggers the fight or flight reflex. Because of this trait, I don't think there is anything funny about scaring a cat, or for that matter, any other animal. Whoever these cat owners are have no business owning such an intelligent animal. Sad that they find the cat responses as being "funny".

    12/11/2015 05:34pm

    I have NO desire to scare any of my cats with any item. It's mean and can lead to behavioral issues. People never cease to amaze me with the stupid and nasty things they find entertaining.

  • Idiots on Social Media
    12/11/2015 09:02pm

    Another example of idiots using social media to let us see how stupid they really are. If you love your cat, why would you even consider scaring them? Makes no sense, which obviously shows us you have no common sense.

  • 12/12/2015 01:44pm

    I guess these days YouTube views are the most important thing, not the welfare of their cats. If you feel the need to mistreat them in this way, you need to rehome them. I probably should not be surprised when people actually waste precious hours of their lives on poop like "Keeping Up With the Kartrashians"

  • I need a cucumber!
    12/12/2015 12:59pm

    We are going out this afternoon to buy a cucumber. Not to scare our wonderful Ocicats Saphira and Viola, but to throw in our Ninja blender along with the tomatoes, onion, Anaheim chilies, and bell peppers and some seasonings to make a gallon of my private recipe Gazpacho. Why would anyone want to scare their faithful feline companions (I like this term better than "pets", it better describes our relationship with our furry friends)? I do shoot still images and videos of our kitties doing cute and fun things, like curled up under the covers in bed with us, exploring boxes, playing with new kitty toys, and playing fetch and catch with us. Intentionally do something to scare them??? NEVER! These morons do not deserve the companionship of cats, this borders on abuse!

    PS: Both of them just climbed into bed with me, Viola is pawing at the fuzzy mousie toys, a sure sign she wants me to play catch with her.

    Warren and Terri, servants of Saphira and Viola

  • EnforceFed.An. Abuse Laws
    12/12/2015 02:23pm

    It's very reassuring to know about the existence of all you kindred souls out there. My Christmas/Hanukah/New Year/Kwanzaa, and Ground Hog Day (My fav holiday) wish is that the federal abuse laws were enforced, and that those who abuse even "just" as borderline abusers would be at the least fined, with conviction carrying severe PRISON sentence attached to the severest of abuse cases. I.e., Kristen Lindsey, the Texas Vet who shot her neighbor's cat with a crossbow, had her mother take a picture of her holding the cat AND THE CAT IS REPUTED TO STILL HAVE BEEN ALIVE, and this horrible subhuman actually posted it on the net bragging about "the best stray cat is a dead cat".