Cats can be fearsome hunters if given a chance and are generally confident and brave creatures. Although it may seem silly to humans, cats can be terrified of some pretty unusual objects.
Recent viral videos on social media report showing cats terrified of inflated balloons.
While not all cats will react to inflated balloons, the vast majority of cats will be frightened of the inanimate object.
Balloons are an unknown object that mimics the shadow of a predator, which poses a threat to a cat.
Further, the popping sound of a balloon can be terrifying for a cat since many balloon explosions are unpredictable.
Dealing with a scared cat can be difficult, especially if the cat experiences psychological damage from a balloon encounter.
In general, a calm and soothing voice, inviting lap, or a welcome toy for a distraction may be able to help a cat overcome its fear.
If used as a training tool, balloons can help teach cats which surfaces in the house they are not permitted to climb on.
Why Are Cats Afraid Of Balloons?
Unfortunately, much of the fear associated with balloons stems from the fact that a balloon can look like a predator to a pet, particularly a floating balloon.
Cats, by nature, are wary of anything approaching from overhead, such as an eagle or a hawk.
Before the predator approaches and attacks the cat, it will create a large, floating shadow hovering over their intended prey.
Unfortunately, a hovering balloon mimics this shape and shadow, which can trigger a response. Common predators are raptors such as hawks, eagles, and on occasion, an owl.
Does The Sound Of A Balloon Popping Scare Cats?
Even if your cat is not scared of a floating balloon, it may be scared of the sound a popping balloon can make.
The loud, sharp sound of a popping balloon can be unpredictable, and the sound can resonate through an entire house.
After hearing a balloon pop, a cat may be startled and can take some time to recover from its fear. While a popping balloon can startle a human, imagine the lasting effect it can have on a cat.
A popping balloon can have a lasting impression on a cat, causing psychological damage.
Are Other Animals Also Afraid Of Balloons?
While you may be thinking that only cats are scared of balloons, the truth is that there are several animals frightened by these objects.
Many small animals that are traditionally prey, like rodents, rabbits, and some small dogs, also fear balloons.
This fear stems from the striking resemblance to a large predatory raptor that may be trying to attack.
Interestingly, large breed dogs that never have to fear an aerial attack are not as afraid of the sight of a balloon.
Unfortunately, even the largest and bravest dogs may still be frightened by the sound of a popping balloon.
Why Are Balloons Confusing To Cats?
As humans, we understand exactly what a balloon is and what it is used for. Unfortunately, for a cat, a balloon is an entirely foreign concept.
This means that a balloon does not smell, move, or sound like anything the cat is familiar with. Balloons make funny sounds, move unpredictably, and have a strange smell.
To a cat, a balloon represents an unknown, and that ultimately means that a balloon may have the potential to hurt your cat.
By nature, the cat will fear something it does not understand. Because a cat cannot easily categorize a balloon, it remains scary and something that many cats worldwide fear.
How Can Your Cat Overcome Fear?
Unfortunately, if your cat has already associated balloons with a traumatic experience, it can be difficult to help your cat overcome their fear of balloons.
The best practice, and most straightforward option, is to avoid balloons and keep your cat away from them simply.
Refrain from using balloons at celebrations, and caution friends and family from bringing balloons to your home.
If this option is not possible, you need to reintroduce your cat to balloons in a positive way. Show your cat a balloon that is inflated but not flying.
Allow your cat to smell and interact with the balloon on its own terms.
Eventually, your cat will understand that balloons are non-threatening, allowing your cat to overcome trauma gradually. Remember, never force your cat to go toward a balloon.
You must have patience and understanding when helping your cat overcome their fear.
How Can I Calm My Scared Cat?
If your cat has seen or heard a popping balloon, it may become terrified and panicked. If your cat is scared, a few methods and tactics can work to calm and settle your cat. You can calm a scared cat by,
- Offer Food – If a cat is particularly scared, it may be too timid to eat. Try offering a particularly tasty treat or meal, like a slice of favorite meat or fish. A delicious treat may be enough to soothe a scared cat.
- Offer Affection – Some cats just love a good lap to snuggle in. If your cat is scared, try to sit on the floor and offer a safe and secure place for your cat to rest until it calms down.
- Move Litter Box – If your cat has associated a particular room in your home with a terrifying balloon, try to move their litter box to the room. The cat will come to the room and associate the litter box with a positive experience rather than a traumatic experience.
- Play Time – To lighten the mood and show your cat there is no reason to be afraid, try engaging your cat in some fun playtime. You can offer a new toy or line up some of their irresistible favorite toys. Sometimes playing, even just for a few minutes, is enough to allow a cat to forget about its fear and overcome its fright.
- Soothing Voice – Sometimes, simply talking to your cat in a calm, soft, and gentle voice will help rebuild their confidence. Having their trusted owner remain calm and relaxed will help build confidence in your cat and allow them to overcome their fears.
Can Balloons Be Dangerous for Cats?
Even though many cats fear balloons, simply looking at a balloon will not harm your cat. However, if a cat should ingest a balloon, it can spell serious trouble.
Balloons are made with latex which can become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract.
When the balloon becomes stuck, it creates a blockage, properly preventing food and waste from passing through the stomach and intestines.
This blockage can cause an infection or cause your cat to starve slowly over time.
If you suspect that your cat has ingested a balloon, you must take your cat to the veterinarian’s office immediately.
A simple X-Ray can help determine if and where the balloon is lodged, and the veterinarian can recommend the proper treatment to help protect your cat from possible infection or danger.
Can You Use Balloons as a Training Tool?
Even though cats are generally scared of balloons, it is possible to use this fear to your advantage. Many cat owners will use inflated balloons as a training tool in their homes.
Balloons can be inflated and taped to areas where you don’t want your cat to jump or climb.
Surfaces like counters, the range, or bookshelves are perfect locations to place inflated balloons. The appearance of the balloon will deter your cat from jumping on the surface.
Eventually, your cat will stay away from these areas, working on training your cat to stay away from unwanted areas of your home.
This training tool is painless and harmless and is more gentle compared to spray bottle tactics.
Are cats actually scared of cucumbers?
While cats are certainly intrepid predators, there are a few nonsensical items, like cucumbers, that cats are afraid of.
The truth is, cats are terrified of cucumbers because their color, shape, and size mimic a predator.
Upon first glance by the cat, the cucumber can easily look like a reptile or snake that could mean to harm your cat.
When the cat turns around and finds a cucumber, their instant response is to panic, thinking they are about to be attacked. This response is triggered by cucumbers, but also bananas!
How can I keep my cat off the countertop?
Using an inflated balloon is a great tool to help keep your cat off the counter. The movement of the inflated balloon can deter a cat from jumping onto the surface.
But, what if your cat has become accustomed to the balloon and is no longer deterred? Another wonderful training tool can be aluminum foil.
Simply spread the foil onto the surface. The cat does not like the texture and sound of the foil under its paws and will quickly jump away.
Using foil is a perfectly safe and humane way to discourage your cat from jumping onto the countertops.
Our team is composed of pet care professionals, veterinarians, and pet owners. To date, we’ve conducted thousands of hours of research to publish the most accurate pet information.
Most of the writers on our site are vets with 10+ years of clinical experience, ranging from small practice, to equine practice, academia, and surgery. Our goal is to help every pet owner get the information they seek about their dear companions.