The fear of cats, commonly referred to as ailurophobia which hails from two Greek words, “Ailuros” which means cat and “Phobos” which means deep dread or fear.
Ailurophobia: Fear of Cats Phobia
Another name for Ailurophobia is “Gatophobia” , a Spanish etymology word, as “Gato” is Spanish for cat. Other names include Galeophobia, etc.
If you have the extreme or irrational fear of cats, then you are not alone. In the United States alone, nearly 22.2% of individuals are known to fear animals of different kinds.
Animal phobias are common and many individuals tend to fear more than one animal. For people with Ailurophobia, their fear or dread of cats can greatly impact their daily lives and activities as they encounter the stimulant of their phobia everywhere they go and often go great lengths to avoid it.
Causes of Gatophobia or Ailurophobia
There are vast arrays that could possibly cause the fear of cats:
- A common trigger for Ailurophobia is watching fearful reactions of other people to cats. A child might develop this fear by watching his parent or elder adults or caregiver (or even cartoon characters in a TV show, in the case of media) behave fearfully or cautiously towards cats.
- Women are known to acquire Gatophobia by watching TV shows or movies where typically women characters exhibit or display fear by jumping on the chair or running away to avoid cats. This notion is further aggravated by the fact that a male character is shown to protect her from the animal.
- Cats are predatory by nature. Often they have been associated with witchcraft, folklore, evil. Even domesticated cats might snarl, hiss or scratch.
- Killing or harming cats in many cultures, especially amongst ancient Egyptians where cats were revered and mummified or preserved, is considered a punishable Act. Such religious sentiments can also lead to fear of cats especially in minds of people already going through crisis or are, by nature, high strung or overly anxious.
Symptoms of Ailurophobia or the Fear of Cats
Many symptoms are exhibited by an Ailurophobic individual on the confrontation or exposure to a cat. Panic and anxiety attacks are not uncommon and avoidance of cats generally.
Other symptoms, both physical and psychological, that may be displayed by the sensitized phobic are;
At least four of following symptoms may be present:
- pounding heart,
- trembling or shaking,
- chest pain,
- dizziness or lightheadedness,
- numbness or tingling sensations,
- thoughts of death,
- feeling like choking.
- In a bid to avoid cats as far as Gatophobia is concerned; the individual will try to do anything possible to avoid a cat even regardless of putting oneself at risk. Crossing the street quickly, jumping out of the cats ways are a few examples. One might avoid nature and animal documentary shows or TV channels where they might see a cat.
- They will also turn down invitations to friends homes where there is a pet cat.
- Other avoidance reactions in Ailurophobia may be subtle: carrying cat food snacks to throw at the cat or shutting ones eyes during a movie scene or carrying a pepper spray or having a family member check out the neighborhood to ensure there are no cats around.
- Fight or flight response upon seeing a cat, typically running away or trying to defend oneself.
Overcoming the Fear of Cats Phobia
It’s great news for most animal phobics including the fear of cats is that these are easily treatable. Most mild cases of Ailurophobia can be overcome with a few therapy sessions.
In the case of prolonged exposure to cats gradually which is important in overcoming Gatophobia. This may be done in steps:
- seeing the cat from far,
- looking at its pictures,
- saying its name and so on
These limited forms of exposure are highly instrumental in eroding the fear of cats:
- For gradual desensitization to be effective, it is important that the phobic stays in the situation and practices it many times. Doing so can be beneficial in reducing the use of strategies of avoidance of cats such as carrying safety cues, and other overprotective behaviors.
- It is important to enlist the help of friends or family members when undergoing exposure therapy. Trained therapist can also help achieve positive results.
- One must also re-learn to think differently about cats. There are many methods of doing so: one must identify anxious thoughts, beliefs and predictions and replace all these with more realistic ones. These strategies can be used along with exposure therapy to overcome the fear of cats.
If you suffer from Gatophobia or Ailurophobia; you are not alone. However, one must be open and receptive to change, you must take steps to identify and understand the nature of your fear of cats so that you can prepare yourself to confront and overcome your phobia.
Drug use is only temporal and can cause withdrawal symptoms on long term usage.