Don't Scare Your Cat With a Cucumber

It's just a vegetable to you, but the sudden appearance of a new object can trigger a cat's fight-or-flight response. By tugol/Shutterstock

A popular salad ingredient is inducing fear in felines across the globe. Videos of people terrifying their cats with cucumbers have gone viral, prompting numerous cat owners to see how their own pets respond to the innocuous vegetable.

The videos typically feature a cat eating from its food dish when a cucumber is placed behind the unsuspecting feline. Upon noticing the vegetable, the animal is startled and often leaps into the air — a reaction many find humorous.

However, while the cats in these videos don’t appear to be harmed, animal experts advise cat owners against any attempts to frighten their pets.

“While I recognize the humor of the dramatic fear response cats show in these videos, I find the intentional infliction of fear on any innocent being inappropriate and unkind — and cruel if done repeatedly,” said Dr. Frank McMillan, director of animal well-being studies at Best Friends Animal Society. “Your pets rely on you to keep them safe. Intentionally scaring your pet violates this trust.”

McMillan says that frightening a cat even with something as harmless as a cucumber could lead to serious injury as the cat’s “reflex fear reaction is very forceful and the cat could crash into furniture or land on something injurious.”

In addition to the risk of physical injury, scaring your cat in this manner can also have a significant psychological effect on the animal.

“For repeated incidents there would be a high likelihood of the cat developing a fear of everything around where the events take place,” said McMillan. “For instance, this could mean that your cat could become afraid to even come near his or her food dish.”

Placing a new — and therefore potentially frightening object — near a cat’s food dish is especially hard on felines because they associate their feeding area with security, safety and positive experiences.

Also, cats that frequently encounter such startling situations can suffer from prolonged stress and become so fearful that they live in a constant state of anxiety. This can cause behavioral problems, such as eliminating outside the litter box, and it can also lead to destructive and aggressive behavior.

So if you’re thinking of playing a prank on your cat in hopes he’ll become the next viral star, McMillan suggests you reconsider.

“The best perspective here would be to imagine watching a video of this kind of fear intentionally elicited in 12-month-old human infants. The outrage one would feel seeing those videos is how the frightened cat videos should be viewed.”