Ailurophobia, felinophobia – these terms can be used interchangeably and both mean the same – fear of cats! Most of us love cats (rather suffering not from anxiety but obsession with cats!), Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that there could be such a thing as fear of furries. However, such a condition appears in the official list of specific phobias (yes, we know, it sounds serious!) and those, who are affected by this ailment, accompanied by a furry, are not laughing at all. Where does ailurophobia come from and how to deal with it?
Panic fear of cats
You can read in Wikipedia, that ailurophobia is one of the types of phobia that consists of an abnormal and long-term fear of cats. The disorder is neurotic in nature, and the fear occurs even when there’s no rational threat from a cat. The feeling of anxiety in a person suffering from felinophobia may appear not only when they see a real animal, but also as a result of, for example, seeing a furry in a film or photo. A person who manifests ailurophobia feels discomfort having contact with everything what’s associated with cats (if you have a friend who is suspected of suffering from this disease – hide not only the cat, but also the scratcher, bowl, litter box, and even … your favorite mug with the image of a pet or “Cat Mom” inscription!
Sounds incredible? Although there is no epidemiological data showing how large a percentage of the population suffers from cat fear, it’s worth considering that this condition may apply to someone in our environment. Such a person will certainly not admit itself – this type of fear (in the case of other phobias it’s similar) can be embarrassing for the suffering person, so we must be vigilant – if, for example, our guest near the cat becomes tense or willingly meets us, but away from our home – it could be a sign that something is up!
Fear of cats can get anyone. Even Napoleon Bonaparte suffered from ailurophobia!
Where does fear of cats come from?
One of the most popular theories is … from childhood! You will surely remember that as children you were frightened by various threats – deadly spiders, dangerous neighbour’s dog, strangers… If, however, one of them was a cat (spreading “deadly” toxoplasmosis), there’s a high probability that a person frightened by a furry from an early age, will get goosebumps just thinking about a cat. “Folk legends” about furries can also be harmful and cause ailurophobia – for example, that cats have bad character or even darker ones – about furries murdering their owners during sleep! Of course, this little funny approach to the subject is only to show where this phobia may come from, but the person who has to struggle with it, is certainly not laughing!
Adults scaring children is one thing, but another reason why a felinophobia may result is an incident involving a furry in the past. A scratch, or any other situation in which a cat’s reaction is interpreted as aggressive by a human, may also lead to ailurophobia.
Ailurophobia – the most common symptoms
The symptoms of ailurophobia include common anxiety-related psychosomatic reactions, such as:
– increased heart rate,
– shouting and running,
– pressure in the stomach,
In extreme cases, it will even include shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, speech and perception disorders. Obsessive desire to hide from the cat and avoid contact with the animal can also lead to irrational and health-hazardous behavior (both, person suffering from fear of cats and the animal). As you can see, this ailment is no joke!
Fear of cats – it can be cured!
Fortunately, panic fear of cats can be successfully treated and there are a number of therapeutic methods that offer a very good prognosis for getting rid of the disease completely. The basic method of treating fear of furries is desensitization, consisting in cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. The task of this type of therapy is to gradually familiarize the patient with the stressor (in this case, cats), step by step. At this stage, you can use various tools – photos of cats, videos about cats or with their participation, and there’s a possibility, the therapy will end with a meeting with a real cat. Education about how cats behave, debunking myths that can cause anxiety, and learning the mechanisms that govern the phobia itself will also be an important part of treatment.
An element of the therapy will also include modeling – observing by a person suffering from felinophobia, another person who is in the company of a cat, and thus convincing that the presence of an animal isn’t any danger. There are also more radical methods (all depends on the severity of the phobia and its symptoms), such as exposing the patient to contact with a cat in a safe environment (here you will need a friendly furry, enjoying contact with people – also strangers), while this type of treatment – called implosive therapy – can only take place with the consent and under the supervision of a specialist – otherwise, serious consequences may occur, as a result of which the symptoms of phobias, instead of disappearing, may worsen.
If these methods don’t work, try hypnotherapy, relaxation techniques, and ultimately pharmacological methods. Successful therapy guarantees complete recovery, so it’s worth trying! If not for themselves, then for kids who dream of a cat at home or for the pet itself, which, apart from trust, can also gain a safe, new home.
How about you, fabCats? Do you know someone around you who suffers from felinophobia or has struggled with this in the past? Or maybe you were afraid of furries yourself, and today you cannot imagine your life without a cat welcoming you at the entrance to your home? Leave a comment!