Domestic cats frightened by banana skins. Why?

This is a cats versus bananas contest. The bananas win.

Cats versus Bananas
Cats versus Bananas
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It seems to me that domestic cats aren’t very good at distinguishing between living and non-living objects using their eyesight based in this well produced, amusing video. I enjoyed it. The cats don’t know whether the banana or banana skin is dangerous. They treat the banana skin as if it could be a living creature which could cause harm so they prod it to see if it becomes active. There is genuine concern when they do it.

They don’t recognize it as non-living. This surprises me. Perhaps the problem is because of two anatomical characteristics. Their eyesight is not good at close range and cats like to smell objects to recognize them. As they are unsure about putting their nose up to the object they bat it as the safest option to see if it moves afterward.

When one of them bats the banana skin he jumps high into the air to avoid it as it moves. You would have though that the domestic cat would be able to tell that the banana skin is inert and non-living and therefore safe to mess around with like any toy.

Which brings me to toys such as stuffed toy mice. Do cats play with these believing that the toy is real? Do they play with them believing it is real but dead and therefore safe. I’d choose the latter. If that is the case cats cannot distinguish between living and non-living objects at least initially. This demonstrates a lack of intellectual awareness and programing to act in a limited way.

This is not to say that cats are not intelligent. It just means they are finely tuned to do a certain number of limited tasks.

1 thought on “Domestic cats frightened by banana skins. Why?”

  1. Caution when encountering something new is a survival tactic which has served cats well for thousands of years.

    Smell is their primary sense and helps them identify new objects and recognise familiar ones. Their eye placement and poor vision in bright daylight, make vision their second or even third sense (behind hearing). A cat won’t live long if they rush in to investigate every new thing they encounter. The neck stretching (for a better smell), quick smack with a paw to provoke a response and a quick jump back in anticipation of a reacion, are the safest approach. They’re trying to see whether it’s something they can eat or which may try to eat them. Perhaps also the shape of a banana or it’s skin are reminiscent of snakes and most cats seem hardwired to be wary around anything snakelike.

    I’m willing to bet that most of the cats in these videos are indoor-only. I’ve seen a similar response to an upturned slipper, when we lived in an apartment. Cats with access to a garden are constantly encountering new sights and smells, giving them a much larger scale of reference.


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