The internet was abuzz with videos of cat being scared of cucumber videos back in 2015. Feline veterinarians say we shouldn't bring back the trend.

By Brendan Howard
October 21, 2020
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Credit: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

If you like cat videos and internet memes (and who doesn't?), at some point you've seen the infamous "cat scared of cucumber" videos.

Here's how they work: A cat owner places a cucumber out of sight of a cat, usually a pet distracted by a full bowl of food. When the cat eventually turns to face the long, green vegetable or catches its color and shape at the edge of its peripheral vision, the feline makes a wild leap or scrambles on the kitchen floor to get away as quickly as possible.

What gives? Why are cats scared of cucumbers?

The Truth—Err, Educated Guess—About Why Cats Are Scared of Cucumbers

Do you freak out at scary things that could kill you? Cats do, too, and veterinarians say it's possible that a cucumber looks like a venomous reptile.

"Cucumbers may trigger cats' instinct to jump away from snakes," says Verna Serra, DVM from Veterinary Emergency Group, a national animal hospital chain. "Cucumbers can initially look like a snake at first glance."

Cats are like humans in that way. Just think: if you were quietly eating dinner on your couch binge-watching Animal Planet and saw a snake next to you, you'd practice your Olympic jumping skills, too.

That rule doesn't apply to only cucumbers, says feline veterinarian Kelly St. Denis, MSc, DVM, DABVP, and president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

"When we put something unusual in front of cats that smells unique, is of unusual shape and color, or that they're unable to focus on visually, we shouldn't be surprised when they're alarmed by it," St. Denis says.

How Cats Respond to Fear

When you scare your cat, as opposed to playing with him or engaging his hunting instincts with a toy, you're being unkind to your cat, says St. Denis. Your cat doesn't "get" practical jokes, and he doesn't appreciate a good scare the way you do watching horror movies.

"This type of trick can leave some cats nervous about their surroundings and distrustful of humans for extended periods of time," she says. 

In addition, when you freak out your cat visually, you're taking advantage of one of your favorite feline's weak points: they're a bit farsighted.

"A cat’s eyes focus best at a distance of six to 20 feet, so they have very poor close-up vision," says St. Denis. There's a chance you noticed this if you put a treat or a toy in front of your cat, and he needed to investigate and sniff to figure out what it was.

"Cats have a very strong sense of smell, much more sensitive than ours," she says, "so when they do find the treat, it's mostly by using their sense of smell."

If you’re wondering whether your cat can eat a cucumber as a snack, they can, but getting them to eat it might be the hard part.

Please Don’t Scare Your Cat With a Cucumber!

If you enjoy seeing your cat jump high and run around, St. Denis encourages you to play with your kitty, not plot pranks to scare them. And quite frankly, it’s just mean to scare your cat on purpose—don’t do it.

"The best comic relief we can get from our cats is the fun we have playing with them with toys, or watching them chase a ball," she says. "When cats are exercising their desire to hunt and enjoying themselves, we get to see some fantastic aerobatics, contortions, and goofy behavior that is not traumatizing to our cat."

Find a new favorite cat toy, pick up your smartphone and film your cat doing that signature butt wiggle as he gets ready to tackle a feather wand. Your cat (and your social media followers) will thank you for the entertainment.