What is Ailurophobia (Fear of Cats)?
Ailurophobia is the irrational fear of cats. This falls into the general Zoophobia, fear of animals. You may also hear it referred to as Gatophobia.
These sufferers typically fear they will be scratched and bitten by these felines. Below is a list of the most common symptoms that this sufferers tend to experience.
Do You Have This Phobia?
If you answer yes to the following questions you likely suffer from Ailurophobia...
Do you have a persistent fear of cats?
Does even the slightest exposure to casts provoke immediate anxiety?
Do you take drastic measures to avoid any situation where you may find a cat present?
Do you feel your body start to panic at the thought of exposure?
Do you know your fear is irrational, but find it hard to control your body's reaction?
All of these are common traits that Ailurophobia sufferers have.
When it comes to the cause of why you developed this fear of cats it's similar to the reasons others developed any one of the other 400 different phobias known to psychology. Let's take a look at what these reasons are...
Personal Direct Exposure
This is one of the more prominent reasons that people develop this fear of cats. This is when a suffer has experienced a traumatic event in their past associated with a cat or cats. For example, a child got scratched by a cat and know they carried that fear of cats with them into adulthood.
This is close to personal direct, however instead of the sufferer actually being exposed to the traumatic event, a person close to them was. For example, your sibling was bit by the neighbor's cat when you were little and know you fear cats in general.
This is actually not exposure to live cats, but rather information about them that has caused a person to develop fear towards cats. There can be a number of different information outlets that you can pickup knowledge from.
These could be movies where people were attacked by a cat, books on diseases cats spread, or even parental cues where your parents warned you of the dangers of getting bitten. All of these information outlets instill a connect between cats and danger.
There are a few different ways you can approach overcoming your fear of cats. The best option for you is really your decision. Some methods may work better for some people, while other methods may work better for the rest. Let's take a look at these specific treatment options.
Therapy Instructed Desensitization
This treatment is combination of relaxation techniques and visualization situations. They are performed in a controlled environment, usually at a therapist's office.
The sufferer will be instructed to visualize a situation with a cat that they fear. As you start your visualization process your therapist will take notes on the specific times your anxiety spikes as you describe to them the situation you are imagining.
Your therapist will then coach you through breathing and relaxation techniques that will help to alleviate some of the anxiety during your period of visualization. This process will be repeated in numerous sessions to help you better acquainted yourself with your fear and eventually overpower it by staying calm with the coaching methods they teach.
Taking things a bit further than Therapy Instructed Desensitization, this method's concept lies in repeated exposure with actual stimuli to desensitize your emotions and bodily reactions. During a typical session your therapists will likely bring a cat into the room. They will show you how they interact with the cat, or they may even bring in an assistant to show you how the cat typically interacts with a human being.
Through this process they work you through calming your anxiety and reprogramming your thoughts towards cats. It's been proven that through repeat exposure your brain can disassociate the anxiety response of danger with a specific stimuli. So seeing a cat interact with another person will show you that your fear of being bitten or scratched is unlikely to occur.
For some people, Ailurophobia may not be something they really want to discuss with anyone else. They may fear that others will judge them on their fear, as they know themselves that it's completely irrational. This is where self-help techniques come into play.
This is a unique form of treatment where the individual works alone with a step-by-step guide to overcome their fear of cats. These programs have proven extremely successful for many.
If you are interested in trying a self-help program we highly recommend this one.