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Ailurophobia - The Fear of Cats

written by: Amy Clare Macdonald • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 3/25/2011

The fear of cats or ailurophobia often begins in childhood and can develop into a fully-fledged phobia incorporating common anxiety and panic symptoms which can lead to full blown panic attacks.

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    Ailurophobia - The Fear of Cats

    To many, cats are cute and cuddly friends. To others, they are a feared enemy. Ailurophobia is an abnormal and persistent fear of cats that creates intense anxiety symptoms in the presence of felines.

    Some people have a generalized fear of cats. Others only express fear on seeing a cat, whether it be a real cat, a toy cat, or even a cat on television. Tactile and aural qualities of a cat may also evoke a response, such as the feel of fur or the sound of a meow. Whether it is a generalized fear or situational fear, the causes of ailurophobia tend to be the same.

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    Causes

    The most common cause of the fear of cats is a bad experience with a cat, usually when a person is young and impressionable. Perhaps they were bitten by a cat or jumped out of their skins when a cat bared its teeth and hissed. These negative emotions stay with him or her, and develop into a phobia. The forming of a phobia is a protective mechanism of the unconscious mind.

    A person who has experienced many emotional traumas involving an incident with a cat will continue to experience a phobic response.

    This emotional trauma includes seeing a cat evoke a strong negative response from someone else. Parental modelling is a good example of this. If a parent has a fear of cats, the young child will see this and imitate the behaviour to model after his or her parent.

    Some people may not even remember a negative experience with a cat from their childhood, but their body will still undergo the typical phobic's flight or fight response.

    Ailurophobia, as with other fears, may also be the manifestation of an unrelated fear a person cannot face. This cause tends to be associated with less tangible fears, such as the unknown. Placing the fear of the unknown onto a physical thing, such as a cat, enables a person to express it.

    Superstitions and supernatural beliefs may also cause a person to fear cats. Many people hold the belief that cats, in particular black cats, are unlucky. Such beliefs can form into a phobia.

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    Symptoms

    The symptoms of an ailurophobic attack are similar to those of other anxiety and panic disorders. The unconscious mind is acting in a protective way to stimuli previously perceived as a threat.

    A person with ailurophobia may respond with one or more of the following symptoms:

    1. Sweating
    2. Chills
    3. Heart palpitations
    4. Nausea
    5. Dry mouth
    6. A tight feeling in the chest
    7. Extreme anxiety
    8. Breathlessness
    9. Inability to speak or think clearly
    10. A fear of dying
    11. A sense of losing control
    12. A feeling of dissociation

    These symptoms of a phobia can escalate into a full blown panic attack even though mean people who have a fear of cats realise that what they are thinking is irrational.

    NB: The content of this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.

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    References

    Ailurophobia - Definition, http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/ailurophobia

    Definition of Fear of Cats, http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=12284

    What is Ailurophobia? http://www.phobia-fear-release.com/what-is-ailurophobia.html