If you’re a cat owner, chances are you’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at adorable feline videos on the internet (hey, we’re not judging). And during your online travels, you may have come across some bizarre clips of cats being scared by cucumbers. Actually, not just some—there are literally thousands of videos out there. In the clips, the kitty cats are turned away while someone secretly places the long green fruit behind them. Then, when the cats turn around, they’re ridiculously surprised and leap back in shock. What gives?
One popular theory is that the cucumbers remind cats of snakes. “Cats are genetically hard-wired through instinct to avoid snakes,” Con Slobodchikoff, animal behaviorist, told ABC News. “Cucumbers look enough like a snake to have the cat’s instinctive fear of snakes kick in,” he added.
But the most likely explanation is that cats aren’t afraid of cucumbers per se, they’re just startled at the sudden appearance of something that wasn’t there before.
“Having been a veterinarian for 18 years, I can almost assure you that cats are, in fact, not scared of cucumbers,” Dr. Katy Nelson, resident veterinarian at Freshpet, tells us. “Cats do, however, get startled by objects that appear out of nowhere as people do to the kitties in these videos,” she adds.
Which kind of makes sense, right? “The cats begin to eat, a person sneakily lays a dark, oddly shaped object behind him, then the cat turns around and gets scared,” she explains. Hey, we’d be freaked out, too.
So there you have it. But even if you find these videos amusing, it’s not a good idea to mess with your kitty, says Nelson.
“While I get that the over-reaction of the cats is quite humorous, they are actually terrified. Much as someone coming up behind an eating child and yelling “boo,” the fright they’re feeling in that moment is real.” In fact, scaring your cat like this could cause injury or at the very least really stress them out. Instead, have some fun with your feline with some cat-friendly toys or a classic game of laser pointing.