Videos starring cats afraid of cucumbers are popping up all over the Internet. In the videos, the felines face away and their owners secretly place a cucumber behind them. When the cats turn around, they are startled by the fruit that wasn’t there beforehand, often leaping back. Although both the videos and the cat reactions are shocking, the question remains as to why are cats afraid of cucumbers.
There are a few theories, but no definitive answer. Most experts agree that it isn’t necessarily the cucumber itself that scares cats. One of the most popular explanations is that cucumbers remind cats of snakes. “Cats are genetically hard-wired through instinct to avoid snakes,” Con Slobodchikoff, animal behaviorist and author of Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals, told ABC News. “Cucumbers look enough like a snake to have the cat’s instinctive fear of snakes kick in.”
Another idea is that the sudden appearance of the cucumber is what scares the cat. This is similar to startling someone by sneaking up behind them, Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant who studied animal behavior and human-pet relationships as a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, told Mental Floss. Reports and videos of other fruits and vegetables scaring cats—including apples and bananas—reinforce the likelihood of this theory. Here are more things your cat would love to tell you.
Jill Goldman, a certified animal behaviorist in southern California, explains that the cucumbers are triggering the cats’ natural startle responses. “With a startle response, a cat will often try to get out of there as quickly as possible and then reassess from a distance,” she says.
Although the videos showing cats afraid of cucumbers and other fruits are entertaining, experts advise against trying any similar pranks at home with your pet; doing so isn’t good for their health. National Geographic reports trying to do so could cause cats to injure themselves, break something, or lead to prolonged stress.
But that’s not the only time you could unintentionally be harming your cat. Here are 12 more dangerous mistakes cat owners should never make.