Get Leashed Gets to the Bottom of the Internet Sensation
By Leslie Phelan
Taking the web by storm these last few weeks: a myriad of compilation videos gone viral featuring startled cats practically jumping out of their skins when they notice the sneakily positioned cucumbers which lie in wait behind them.
Yes, a cucumber: one of those long, green, inanimate vegetables that are a crucial component in so many salads, but that have never been known to harm cats in any way.
Did you LOL? I sure did. The higher the leap, the harder I laughed. After all, everyone loves a practical joke, especially when the joke triggers something as fantastic as an honest, in-the-moment display of supreme feline agility, made extra hilarious because the common trigger in all the videos is a cucumber.
Video credit: Huffington Post
Why does it happen?
Still beaming from all the hilarity after falling down a rabbit hole of related YouTube vids, I decided to look into the matter to see what causes such a reaction in cats. I discovered that research into feline psychology says it’s not the cucumber itself that gives the cat such a violent startle, but the fear that every cat harbors of a serpentine attack. Apparently, to a cat being surprised by a cucumber, survival instinct kicks in and the fat, green snake the cucumber resembles gets the appropriate flight response. Cats are stealthy predators, but they are also prey to animals larger, stronger, and hungrier than they are, which could basically be any mid-sized creature in the animal kingdom that is not a hand-fed, domesticated house pet. Even if a cat has never actually been exposed to a snake in its life, the part of its brain that’s been evolutionarily conditioned to avoid snakes and anything snake-like steps up. The result is stupendously humorous comedy gold for the humans who tape it and everyone they share it with.
Everyone loves a good practical joke, but only when the joke is not at their expense. Sneakily placing cucumbers behind cats feels like a victimless crime because cats spook easily and it’s not like we’re hurting them… right?
Why experts warn against it:
The idea that’s being brought to light since these videos went viral: that a prank like this could leave a cat with emotional scarring, forever condemning them to a life of never being able to let their guard down and relax, lest they find themselves blindsided by terror once again, in what is supposed to be the safety of their own homes. People who believe this to be the case say cucumber pranks are much akin to animal abuse. What do you think?
I think that while this stuff is still knee-slappingly funny to watch and to share, maybe it’s a good idea for no one else going forward to try this at home on their own kitty. While it does sound a little extreme to be concerned that a prank could give a cat a permanent complex, there are also the physical ramifications to consider, like what if the cat hits itself on something mid-air, or lands on a hot stove or sharp surface. After all, if you have a pet, it is yours to protect, not to momentarily torture like a victim on Punk’d, or Fear Factor. So perhaps the thing a would-be prankster should ask themselves is this: if you knew there was even a one-in-a-thousand chance that jumping out of your friend’s closet dressed up like the evil clown from It could give their five-year-old child a lifelong stutter, would you still do it? Only a sociopath would, so err on the side of courtesy, people! Cats are already so sensitive as it is.