The internet was made for cats. Since the very earliest days of memes, videos, and sharing content online, cats and their crazy antics have played a massive part. From Can Haz Cheezburger and Lolcats to celebrity cats like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub, a vast chunk of the internet is dedicated to our funny feline friends.

In recent years, however, a concerning trend has emerged showing cat parents sneakily placing cucumbers behind their unsuspecting felines and filming the extreme reaction this elicits. The results are sometimes quite dramatic, with cats flipping out (quite literally), leaping into the air in shock, and all but levitating in response.

Of course, a cat totally overreacting to a salad ingredient can be hilarious to humans, but the same cannot be said for how cats interpret the experience. It can be extremely traumatizing for them, not to mention that some cats have even injured themselves in the process of trying to escape this perceived threat.

So, what’s the deal here? Why are cats scared of cucumbers? Do cats hate cucumbers?

Why are cats afraid of cucumbers?

People have proposed that cats are afraid of cucumbers because the fruits so closely resemble snakes and cats don’t like snakes. It’s a good theory — cats don’t enjoy snakes’ company — but it’s not entirely correct.

While cats and snakes are natural foes, cats are usually more curious about them than terrified. A cat will naturally be intrigued by a snake, especially one as small as a cucumber, and will in all likelihood paw at it and try to learn more about it.

So that doesn’t fully explain why cats hate cucumbers and react so badly to them.

If you presented a cucumber to your cat upfront, would she still react in the same extreme way? In reality, they might give it a sniff, investigate it a little, and continue with their day without too much fanfare. No extreme reactions, no fear.

At worst, your cat might approach the cucumber with some suspicion for resembling something foreign, but it certainly won’t elicit a dramatic freakout.

So, if it isn’t cats vs cucumbers, what is it that causes the extreme reaction? The truth is, it’s less about the cucumber as an object in itself and more about its sudden appearance behind the cat.

Lean, mean, hunting machines

Cats are world-class hunters, constantly aware of their surroundings and in tune with what’s going on even behind them. Their keen ears are always scanning for subtle noises which may indicate the presence of prey, their noses are finely tuned to pick up even the slightest scent on the breeze. Like a tightly wound spring, your cat is primed to leap into action in response to even subtle changes in the environment.

So, it makes absolute sense for your cat to react so badly when all of a sudden, a potential threat appears as if out of nowhere. Poof! It’s like a Harry Potter character apparated out of thin air.

Your cat has been snuck up on, and this isn’t something that cats are used to (refer back to the super-sensory advanced warning system).

What’s this? It wasn’t here before. I didn’t smell it coming. I didn’t hear it coming. What sorcery is this?!

It’s no wonder sweet Fluffy is going to be startled. It’s much the same when you’re deeply concentrated browsing cat videos online, and suddenly your boss appears over your shoulder. Startling, right?

So, it’s ultimately more about the element of surprise than the type or shape of the fruit. Your cat might react in the same way to an apple or a bunch of grapes (for the happiness and welfare of your cat, we do not recommend that you try this at home). It just so happens that these videos have all used cucumbers as the offending fruit of choice.

Why you really shouldn’t scare your cat

You may have gathered by now that cats aren’t big fans of surprises or big changes. Sneaking up on your cat or otherwise startling her at all is not something we’d encourage.

When a cat is startled, she’s probably going to want to get away from whatever it is that startled her as fast as possible and assess it from a safe distance. This sharp jolt and sudden escape can cause your cat to injure herself, not to mention the obvious trauma of the fright.

A lot of the videos where cats are startled in this way are done quite near to the cat’s food bowls. This is particularly inadvisable (and also pretty cruel) as cats associate their food bowls as being a place of safety, and so are very much not expecting any nasty surprises.

Repeated trauma like this can severely damage the trust you have built with your cat and the relationship in general, and it can take years to repair. Some cats are predisposed to be more highly strung than others and it can severely impact their long-term mental health to feel so insecure in what should be their safe space.

This can cause your cat to become reactive and difficult to manage. Traumatized cats act out in many ways that can further damage the relationship. Anyone who’s rescued a kitten from bad circumstances will know that it takes a long time to build trust with a traumatized cat. It can be a long road back to Soft kitty, warm kitty from there.

Whether it’s a cucumber or a bunch of grapes, your cat is likely going to have a strong reaction to anything sneaking up on them (fruit or otherwise), and you’ll both be happier off avoiding that situation.

There are plenty of laughs to be had with your cat that don’t lead to long-term trauma and aren’t at your cat’s expense. Please film your cats being cats in a happy and healthy setting and share it online for all of us to enjoy at work.