5 Mildly Mean Things People Do to Their Cats (and Why You Shouldn't)
Scaring a cat with a cucumber may seem hilarious, but for a feline it's no fun
When the “cat versus cucumber” videos went viral, many people were tempted to try the trick on their own felines. After all, the cats' reactions were pretty funny.
At the same time, the prank seemed a bit mean, considering the cukes obviously scared the kitties out of their wits.
SafeBee checked in with some pet experts to find out why cats jump sky high when they encounter a cucumber, and whether the green vegetable taunt is truly mean.
“Cats are inherently both predators and prey, hunters and the hunted,” says Jane Brunt, DVM, a veterinarian in Baltimore. The most common predators in a cat’s environment are people and dogs. If you want your kitty to be happy and to successfully interact with you, you should be calm and thoughtful around her, adds Brunt.
Related: Cat Toys: Which Ones Are Safest?
That means using cucumbers only for salads. It also means being aware of other seemingly innocent ways you may be crossing the line with your cat. For the healthiest relationship with your furry friend, respect her feelings. Here are 5 unkind things you might be doing — and why you should stop.
Pulling a fast one
Using a cucumber to (literally) get a rise out of your cat falls under this category. "Cats aren’t naturally afraid of cucumbers, but, like most animals, they are neophobic, meaning they’re afraid of new things,” explains Anthea Appel, an animal behaviorist in New York City.
“In the case of the cucumber, when you consider the poor cat is suddenly face to face with a giant green torpedo that’s almost as big as she is, it’s definitely fear-inducing,” adds Brunt. What’s more, ongoing surprises like these are chronic stressors that may lead to anxiety in your cat.
Bottom line: Don't put something behind your cat just to see her become airborne when she notices it.
Teasing her with a laser pointer
Motivating your cat to chase a little red dot across the floor may seem like innocent fun. But for a feline this game ultimately can be an exercise in frustration. Cats prefer stalking their prey, not chasing after it, so laser play doesn't sync with their natural instincts. Also, because your kitty can't really "catch" a beam of light, she gets no satisfaction or reward by pouncing on it, according to Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, a veterinarian in Chico, California. The humane way to play with a laser pointer is to hide a treat for your cat to find when you turn off the beam. This way, she’ll get to capture and "kill" her prey, much as she would in the wild.
Sliding her across the floor
Here's another game that's been making the YouTube rounds: pushing a cat who's lying down across the floor. In some videos, the kitties seem to come back for more. According to Appel, though, being shoved like a hockey puck isn't likely to be a feline's idea of fun. “This activity becomes especially mean when you get rough — so that the cat bangs into objects and wants to stop. You can't play with a cat the same way you can with a dog, because if it’s too forceful, the cat will eventually avoid you and hide,” points out Appel.
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Dressing her up like a doll
Putting clothes on a cat messes with her fur. “Cats have very sensitive skin receptors, so putting them in costumes is uncomfortable for them,” explains Colleran. And if an outfit mashes down a kitty's whiskers, it interferes with her ability to navigate her environment. “Whiskers have nerve endings and deep roots. They’re so sensitive they can detect changes in air currents,” says Appel. Without the aid of her whiskers, a cat may become fearful and disoriented. (So don't be tempted to trim your cat's whiskers either.)
Tugging her tail
Some cats enjoy being stroked (gently and slowly) from head to tail. But some don’t like having their tails touched at all, so imagine how much Fluffy might hate even a gentle, playful tug on hers. If you actually yank a cat’s tail it can be dangerous for her. “Because the tail is part of the spinal cord, pulling too hard can cause dislocation, which may affect nerve roots in the hind legs, pelvis, bladder, rectum and perineal regions. Damage to these nerves can result in a loss of bladder and rectal control, and in extreme cases, paralysis in the hind legs,” warns Appel.
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