It is the uncontrollable, abnormal, persistent and unjustified fear that an individual has of cats.
Animal phobias are very common and many individuals tend to fear multiple animals.
For people with ailurophobia, their fear or fear of cats can have a great impact on their lives and daily activities, as they will encounter the stimulant of their phobia wherever they go, even if they do everything possible to avoid it.
Characteristics of ailurophobia
Other names that ailurophobia receives is gatofobia , a word of etymology in Spanish and galleophobia.
Ailurophobia is a type of animal phobia and consists of a psychological disorder in which its main manifestations are related to anxiety disorders.
People with ailurophobia experience adverse feelings when exposed to cats.
For this reason, it is common for subjects with this disorder to systematically avoid contact with these animals.
Ailurophobia is a mildly disabling disorder, but suffering from this condition is a significant reduction in the individual’s quality of life. However, not all people have the same taste for these animals.
Ailurophobia is not a rare disorder today, even though cats are perceived as peaceful animals by society.
This disorder is well defined and its treatments are usually very effective in overcoming the phobia of cats.
There may be people who enjoy the company of cats and people who fear it.
Possible causes that can lead to fear of cats include:
- The common trigger for causing ailurophobia in individuals could be observing fear reactions from other people when they are in the presence of cats.
- It is possible that a child could develop this phobia, behaving fearful or cautious towards cats, seeing that their parents or any older adult, even when observing cartoon characters on a television show, show the same fear.
- Women have been known to acquire ailurophobia from watching television shows or movies where typically female characters exhibit or show fear by jumping on the chair or running away to avoid cats.
- Cats are predatory by nature. They have been very often associated with witchcraft practices, with acts of evil by popular beliefs. It is even normal for domesticated cats to growl, or even scratch.
- In many cultures, such as ancient Egyptians, where cats were worshiped, mummified or preserved, these are acts that can provoke fear of cats, especially in the minds of some individuals who are already going through a crisis or who, for nature, are nervous or overly anxious.
Symptoms of ailurophobia or fear of cats
The typical symptoms of this disorder are physical. The person who is affected by this phobia will generally experience a series of alterations in the entire functioning of the body when exposed to the presence of a cat.
These alterations are the product of the increased activity of the autonomic nervous system that generates the phobic fear of cats and is essentially characterized by:
- Increased heart rate.
- Increased respiratory rate.
- Excessive sweating
- Increased muscle tension.
- Pupil dilation.
- Dry mouth.
- Nausea, dizziness, or vomiting.
- Feelings of unreality
The thoughts that accompany ailurophobia can have different modalities and contents.
Each person with this disorder may have different thoughts about cats.
But, the cognitive symptoms that occur with ailurophobia are characterized by two main elements:
- They present irrational thoughts.
- They attribute highly dangerous properties to cats.
When the diagnosis of ailurophobia is made, it is necessary for the patient to show two primary characteristics.
First of all, as the definition of phobia itself indicates, the individual must be afraid of cats.
Second, it is necessary that this fear experienced by the individual has the characteristic of being phobic. That is why not all apprehensive feelings towards cats can be diagnosed as ailurophobia.
This fear, anxiety, or avoidance typically causes significant distress or impairment in the individual’s social, occupational, or other important areas of performance.
In an attempt to avoid cats, the individual will try to do everything possible to avoid a cat including putting himself at risk by crossing the street quickly, avoiding documentary shows about nature and animals or watching television channels where there is the possibility of seeing a cat.
He will reject invitations to houses where there is a cat as a pet.
There are other avoidance reactions that can be subtle, such as carrying food snacks to throw the cat out of the way or closing your eyes during a cat-like movie scene.
Treatments for ailurophobia
The current first-line treatment to cure ailurophobia is cognitive behavioral therapy .
This type of therapy has high levels of efficacy in the intervention of phobic fears and is currently a more effective and appropriate therapeutic tool than the use of drugs.
This cognitive behavioral treatment is based mainly on the therapeutic element of exposure.
Carrying out a gradual and controlled exposure to cats allows the subject to get used to their phobic elements and gradually overcome their response to fear and anxiety.
This is done in steps, such as:
- Observe the cat from afar.
- Look at pictures of cats.
- Repeat his name.
- Initiate more direct contact with cats.
You must also relearn how to think differently about cats.
There are many methods to do this, adverse thoughts and beliefs must be identified, to replace them with more realistic ones.