Why are cats scared of cucumbers?

Cat peering at a cucumber
(Image credit: Getty)

The internet has an overwhelming number of people asking ‘Why are cats scared of cucumbers?’. Most people will be familiar with the saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’ but what mysterious force do cucumbers have against cats and is this online suspicion legitimate?

This question asked by many countless feline fans arose from a social media trend where people started sharing videos of cats reacting to cucumbers. Pet owners can be seen placing the fruit behind their cats for them to turn around and jump in fear. While it is quite clear that cucumbers do not fall under the best cat toys category, people want to know why the long green fruit instills such fear in cats.

We consult pet specialists on everything here at PetsRadar but this time round it was a slightly odder request asking them ‘Why are cats scared of cucumbers?’. We’ve included what they had to say below but before you read on, take a look at some of the cat reaction videos below in this Tiktoker’s compilation.

Watch cats getting frightened by cucumbers

@afvofficial (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - AFVofficial (opens in new tab)

Why are cats scared of cucumbers? 

We approached a few vets and animal behaviorists to find out the reasons why cats are scared of cucumbers. There doesn’t seem to be one definitive or proven answer to the query but there certainly are a few explanations behind why there are so many videos of cats leaping away from cucumbers online. 

Veterinarian, Jo Woodnutt told us that nobody is definite on why cats react so strongly to cucumbers but pointed out that cats are prey species, meaning they are all always on the alert for changes in their environment. 

“The sudden appearance of any vegetable (or indeed any object) is likely to cause a similar reaction” noted Woodnutt, “However, it’s possible that cats react more to cucumbers because they look more like a possible predator- some people think they might appear at first glance to look like a snake. There aren’t many small predators that would scare a cat but snakes are not to be messed with! Either way, it’s not kind to scare a cat so you should not test this at home!”.

The other experts were in agreement that it isn’t necessarily the fact it’s a cucumber that’s scary but potentially the shape and the way people online are presenting the object to their cats. 

Sophie White, a veterinary surgeon and clinical animal behaviorist was in agreement that it’s far more likely cats are startled and alarmed by an unusual object suddenly appearing behind them, rather than having a specific fear of cucumbers. 

She added, “Cats are solitary and are primed to be very sensitive to threats as they don't typically have others around to keep an eye out for them. They tend to react first, and think later, so anything strange suddenly appearing is likely to cause alarm, even if only momentarily.”

Sara Atkinson, founder of a cat charity called Yorkshire Cat Rescue with 30+ years working with cat charities said she experimented with this trend when the ‘cucumber craze’ first arose. She said that when she placed the cucumber in full view of her cats, some ignored it, some were interested but none were scared.

But when she placed a cucumber behind one of her cats, the response was a little different. “When he turned he was startled at seeing it, but his reaction was significantly less extreme than the cats seen jumping (online). I didn't want to scare him or any other cat any further so I didn't repeat it.  

“I felt that the "fear" or "startle" reflex would always be there at seeing something that hadn't been there previously, but either the cats filmed had had extreme reactions or that the shape panicked them a little bit more than a non-snake-shaped item would.”

Cat being handfed a cucumber

(Image credit: Getty)

Are cucumbers toxic for cats? 

Despite the commotion that cucumbers appear to cause cats when placed behind them, they are not poisonous and can be eaten by your moggy. It might be a wise idea to cut it up into a non-snake-looking shape if you’re worried about your cat's food looking like a predator.

White confirmed, “Cucumber is perfectly safe for cats if they fancy a nibble.”

Want to find out what human food can cats eat? We’ve compiled a list of six foods safe to share with your moggy.

Or if you’re curious about what other objects or things scare cats, take a look at these 7 weird things cats are scared of.

Dr Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS BVMedSci MRCVS
Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS

Dr Joanna Woodnutt (opens in new tab) qualified as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham where she then went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She really took to the consulting side of things and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition - anything that involved helping clients understand their pets better. 

Sophie White
Sophie White

White graduated as a veterinary surgeon from the Royal Veterinary College in 2011 where she then went on to complete a Masters Degree in Clinical Animal Behavior with distinction from University of Lincoln in 2019. She is an ABTC registered Veterinary Behaviorist.

Sara Atkinson
Sara Atkinson

Atkinson is the founder of Yorkshire Cat Rescue which is a charity that rescues and rehomes cats and kittens. She has 30+ years experience (charity founded Feb 1992 and volunteered with other cat charities before then). 

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

 Jessica is Staff Writer at PetsRadar who joined the team after spending over a year writing for the brand’s sister site, Fit&Well. She is an avid dog spotter whilst out for her weekly runs and brings to the team a passion for creating informative and helpful digital content, which she has been putting to practice since graduating with a degree in Magazine Journalism in 2021.