Domestic cats are scared of tinfoil because it sounds like a viper

Far-fetched? That’s what you might think of the statement in the title. However, I feel quite confident that it is true.

Sound of tinfoil

When handled, or when walked upon by a cat, tinfoil makes a rattling sound of sorts, akin to the sound of the rattle from one of the 200 species of viper. The viper is found over a very wide area of distribution. Some subspecies of viper will be sympatric with the North Africa wildcat (they have the same areas of distribution). The rattlesnake makes a sound that most of us have heard. That’s the kind of sound I’m referring to. The rattlesnake is a viper. Although the rattlesnake itself is found in North America which is an area where you won’t find the North African wildcat (obviously). I’ve mentioned that species of snake because it’s well known and the sound that their rattling tail makes is also well known.

P.S. Tinfoil is aluminium foil. It is not made of tin nowadays. It is spelled ‘tinfoil’ or tin foil’.

Protecting the Christmas tree with tin foil
Protecting the Christmas tree with tin foil. Screenshot.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


It’s now established that the domestic cat is a domesticated North African wildcat a.k.a. Near Eastern wildcat or Asian-African wildcat. This species of wildcat has learned to understand that vipers are dangerous because they are venomous and they eat small mammals. They must encounter them often. Incidentally the diminutive sand cat is able to kill snakes as prey animals. I would expect the wildcat to eat the occasional snake but they’ll be selective. For those who say that wildcats eat snakes, they might as they are reptiles and wildcats eat some species of reptile but they’ll avoid venomous snakes.

It must be true that the wildcat has learned to normally avoid the viper and indeed any other venomous species of snake because they mimic the snake to defend themselves. Evolution has integrated snake characteristics into the domestic cat. They understand the dangers.

Cat hissing
Cat hissing. The are several possibilities if your cat is hissing at you all of a sudden. Most are behavioural issues and one is due to pain. Illustration: PoC.

Firstly, when a cat wants to tell you to leave them alone, they hissed at the other creature. This is the sound that they have copied from the snake. Secondly, for the first few thousand years of cat domestication the only domestic cat was a tabby cat. When a tabby cat curls up to sleep, they look a bit like a snake as a form of defence.

Curled Cat Coiled Snake Comparison
Curled Cat Coiled Snake Comparison. Image: PoC.

The fact that the wildcat copied the snake as a defensive measure indicates that, like other animals, they’ve recognised the dangers presented by a venomous snake such as those in the Viperinae and Crotalinae families.

I believe that animals have inherited memory in their DNA. It’s handed down to generations and the fear of this sound is part of that memory.

High-pitched repetitive sounds

This is another element in this discussion, in my view. High-pitched repetitive sounds as made by alarms disturb people. It seems to be inherent in the minds of humans that these sorts of sounds represent danger. They make humans anxious. My neighbour is terrified by the sound of smoke alarms. She asked me to remove them. I complied. I’m not sure where this originates. It, too, might originate in venomous snakes.


It’s Christmas and a deterrent to stop domestic cats climbing up Christmas trees is to put tinfoil around the base. The video shows it. It also shows a young cat walking up to the tinfoil, placing their paw on it and retreating. A nice, mild way of deterring a cat. Cat deterrents if used should not terrify cats.

Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

Tinfoil on kitchen counters

You will see videos on the Internet of tinfoil being used as a deterrent to stop cats jumping onto kitchen counters. It’s effective. It’s in fact too effective because the cat becomes very frightened when they land on the tinfoil. They immediately leap off. I would not recommend this method for that reason. It also, obviously, prevents the use of that part of the counter. It’s more academic than practical. You don’t want to frighten your cat in order to control her. The better way to control her is through gentle training which is often carried out informally in any case.

Sphynx cat hissing

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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