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Experts: Stop scaring your cats with cucumbers

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-19 17:40:07-05

It’s tempting to scare cats because, well, cats are hilarious when they’re scared.

And it makes for good videos.
 
That’s why the Internet’s newest viral sensation shows cats being frightened by – wait for it – cucumbers. Yes, really. For some reason, many cats appear to be terribly scared of the harmless vegetables. 
 
The trend (viewable in a compilation below), is to place a cucumber on the floor behind your unsuspecting cat – when the feline turns around, as evidenced by the videos, it normally jumps in the air or scurries away in an alarmed fashion. 
 

 
While some deem the prank harmless and cute, animal experts disagree. In fact, words they’re using to describe it include “despicable” and “cruel.”
 
That’s because scaring your cat can be hazardous to its health, they say, according to National Geographic.
 
 “If you cause stress to an animal that's probably not a good thing,” Jill Goldman, a certified animal behaviorist in southern California, said of the prank. “If you do it for laughs it makes me question your humanity.”
 
According to Goldman, purposely startling your cat could not only cause them to injure themselves or break something, but it could lead to prolonged stress. When introducing your cat to a new item, she said, it should be done gradually.
 
Meanwhile, John Bradshaw -- a cat-behavior expert at the University of Bristol -- called the videos “despicable,” adding that they are “an incitement for people to scare their cats and then invite people to laugh at them.”
 
But why the bizarre reaction to a mere salad ingredient, anyway?
 
Goldman explained that the cucumbers are triggering the cats’ natural startle responses, since they “would not normally see cucumbers on the floor.”
 
Another possibility is that the cats are associating the vegetable with snakes – potentially deadly predators – causing them to leap away and reassess from a distance.
 
Whatever the reason, most cats clearly aren’t fans of the cruel joke. The advice of cat experts is simple: Just don’t do it.