Picture of a domestic cat happily crouching on tin foil

The sound and appearance of tin foil does not affect all domestic cats equally it seems ?. The picture confounds the world view of domestic cats as creatures that are terrified of tin foil which it is used quite a lot as a cat deterrent in the home. An ugly deterrent I have to say. There are two deterrent factors: sound and appearance. Scientists and experts are still working out what is going on in the cat’s brain when encountering good old commonplace tin foil (aluminium foil).

The sound and appearance of tin foil does not affect all domestic cats

The sound and appearance of tin foil does not affect all domestic cats or is this a misleading photo? Image: Reddit user: u/General_Limit_9953.

The sound can even cause audiogenic reflex seizures (FARS) in cats. These are seizures caused by sound as you’ve probably guessed or know. But we don’t know what is happening. Other sounds can cause them such as a metal spoon clanging in a ceramic feeding bowl. Often these are sharp, metallic sounds.

There is something in the sound frequency and timbre that triggers an extreme reaction. And when cats jump on it or walk on it, it feels bad. But clearly, we can’t generalise as this tabby boy just doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. No sweat. No problem. No deterrent.

The owner was upset because he/she wanted to stop their cat jumping onto the kitchen counter. Failure. He asking fellow Reddit users why it had gone wrong. Years ago, I had the reasonable (I would say that) theory that the sound of tin foil triggers the flight reflex in cats because it sounds like a rattlesnake. Cats automatically regard snakes as dangerous. It is in their DNA. But cats have reflexes which are faster than those of snakes and can kill them or avoid being bitten. Is this also an evolutionary development?

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Is the cat averse to the sound of tin foil because by accident it sounds like a rattlesnake which is a type of viper and of which there are 32 species. Rattlesnakes emit the sound to warn other creatures of their presence. It is a deterrent to others. They can change the frequency of the rattle which gives the impression that it is nearer than it actually is. This magnifies the deterrent effect.

We know that cats have excellent hearing which can detect sounds at a higher frequency than human hearing which is why they can hear mice and sometimes humans can’t. It is hearing which is geared up to detect small rodents, their main prey animal. Also, an evolutionary development I’d suggest.

Perhaps the sound of crinkling tin foil overloads the domestic cat’s sensitive hearing apparatus to the point where it can cause a seizure and at least be very uncomfortable which forces them to retreat.

And it is very shinny and peculiar (alien) to the domestic cat. Tin foil is a very unnatural object to them. When cats don’t understand an object (remember ‘cucumber fear’) they run as an act of self-preservation.

But, not always. I think the cat in the picture is a very big exception to the general rule that cats hate the stuff. Perhaps scientists should study him! There is one possible reason why this cat’s reaction is seemingly abnormal. It did not make a crinkly sound when he walked and crouched on it because it is completely flat to the counter.

P.S. Why are some cat owners so frightened of their cat going onto kitchen counters? I think this is an unwarranted fear. The bacteria on the counter is probably far more hazardous to human health than their fastidiously clean domestic cat.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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1 Response

  1. None of my 20+ cats are afraid of tinfoil. I just use a bleach and water solution in a spay bottle in the morning when I get up and when I need to use the counters for cooking. As for cucumbers none of them are afraid of those either. 🙂 I guess you could say my cats are well adjusted or they just don’t give a F. LOL.

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