Why Cats and Salad Ingredients Don’t Mix

Salads are good for you. Cats may not be good for you, but allergies aside, let’s assume they’re at least neutral. And if you’re home right now, contemplating what to make for lunch as your cat skulking around, making a salad may be a good idea. Some lettuce or spinach as a base, some cucumbers, tomatoes, maybe some mixed bell peppers or broccoli. Chicken or tofu or some other protein, maybe some kidney beans or chickpeas. Toss in some shredded cheese, croutons, dressing, etc. and you’ve got yourself a meal.

It’s not the most exciting lunch but it’s better than many other options. 

Just make sure you don’t drop that cucumber on the floor. If you have a cat, that is. Because for some reason, cats and cucumbers don’t go well together.

Don’t take my word for it — here’s a video, below. (Click here if that doesn’t work for some reason, or if you want a shorter example, here’s a gif.) It’s a five-minute compilation of cats being disproportionally scared by a vegetable sitting there idly the floor.

It’s funny, right? Well — not for the cat. 

Cats aren’t allergic to cucumbers or anything like that. They are, however, “genetically hard-wired through instinct to avoid snakes,” animal behaviorist Con Slobodchikoff tells ABC News. And, per Slobodchikoff, “cucumbers look enough like a snake to have the cat’s instinctive fear of snakes kick in.” Scared cats jump out of the way of a would-be predator, and even though this “predator” is more likely to be eaten than to be the eater, you can’t fault a cat for not knowing better. So they take the flight, briefly. Other foods will also cause this type of response in cats — corn, eggplant, squash, and other similarly-shaped foods will as well — but cucumbers tend to get the biggest leaps.

But please, don’t try this at home. Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant told Mental Floss that interactions like this probably cause your cat a lot of stress, and that’s bad. Per Delgado, “there’s been research showing that something as trivial as changing their routine can cause cats to exhibit what we call sickness behaviors: vomiting, not using their litter box, diarrhea, changes in appetite. Cats are sensitive.” 

Bonus fact: In general, dogs can subsist on a diet of cat food, but cats can’t survive on a diet of only dog food. The reason, as PetMD explains, is taurine. Unlike dogs, cats can’t produce this amino acid themselves, and without it, they can suffer from heart issues, blindness, and digestion issues. Commercially produced cat food almost always has taurine added, to mitigate this.

From the Archives: The Station Master: Zero cucumbers. One cat.