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What is the Fear of Cats Called?

written by: Nicky LaMarco • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 10/29/2010

Cuddly, cute, and furry felines can be a tremendous source pleasure and comfort, but not to people who fear them.

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    What is the Fear of Cats Called?

    This article will not only look at what is the fear of cats called, but also its causes, symptoms and treatment options.

    The fear of cats is called ailurophobia and the most common cause is a scary experience with a cat in childhood. Typically a person may have been bitten or scratched by a cat. Even if the sufferer was too young to remember the experience that caused their ailurophobia the body (due to this seemingly traumatic event) triggers a fight-or-flight response when the sufferer merely sees a cat.

    A second common cause of ailurophobia is a related belief system. If a child sees a trusted adult reacting negatively toward a cat, acting fearfully or saying bad things about felines, the child internalizes this message. They may in turn become victims of ailurophobia as adults without ever having a negative experience with the cause of their fear.

    Historically cats have received a bad rap. Old wives’ tales like cats sucking the breath out of newborn babies or their role in the Black Plague are still talked about by some people. Other ailurophobes believe cats are signals and carriers of “black magic" and bring evil to humans.

    There is hope, however. Treatment for ailurophobia is available in a variety of ways.

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    Hypnotherapy

    Gaining popularity and credence in recent years are sessions with trained hypnotherapists who can induce the subconscious mind of their patient to be at ease with cats and implanting positive thoughts about them.

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    Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

    WhiteCat This usually involves sessions with desensitization. This means gradually the patient is exposed to what they fear, in this case cats. Patients may begin by looking at photos of cats and graduate to watching videos, and then to viewing an actual cat while they themselves are in an enclosed (safe) space, and then to finally being in the same space as a cat. This type of therapy includes breathing exercises and various coping mechanisms to employ when around any sort of cat.

    Some therapists advocate what is known as “flooding" or sudden, prolonged exposure to their phobia. Some ailurophobes decide to do this themselves by forcing themselves to be in the same room as a cat, petting it and even holding it until they feel their body’s natural fight-or-flight response cease, calm down, and gradually subside.

    Some people are embarrassed to seek treatment for fearing a small animal like cat but it is certainly a real fear. The causes and symptoms for ailurophobia may seem like many but there are infinitely more treatments for those seeking help. If you have these symptoms or think you might have a fear of cats seek treatments through your primary care physician who can point you in the right direction.

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    Resources

    "Ailurophobia", published by Kosmix: http://www.kosmix.com/topic/ailurophobia

    "What is Ailurophobia?", published by Phobia Fear Release: http://www.phobia-fear-release.com/what-is-ailurophobia.html

    Image released into public domain under GNU Free Documentation License

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