Many adore them and some fear them

The fear of cats is not as common as the phobia of dogs, but in certain cases, it can be very limiting. Let's know the characteristics and possible associated causes.

Mysterious, intelligent, vigilant, agile and always wrapped in that eternal aura between elegance and enigma. Felines have been the protagonists of legends and even terrifying tales, such as the now classic story by Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat . Be that as it may, the fear of cats is for some something justified and real, a very limiting type of phobia in a world that generally adores these creatures.

To speak of phobias is to enter a world that is as ordinary as it is singular at the same time . We are facing one of the most common psychiatric disorders, because who more and who less has their own irrational fear, that which may or may not hinder the performance of their daily life. Now, if there is one aspect that defines this condition, it is the clear difficulty in finding the origin of these fears.

In 1914, the American psychologist G. Stanley Hall published his now famous genetic study of fear in the American Journal of Psychology. In it, he identified 136 phobias, a list that is much more extensive today. For his part, the benchmark for the study of ailurophobia or fear of cats was the American neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell , who in 1902 began to collect as much information as possible to better understand this type of phobia.

His research has put into context quite a bit today what we know about this type of disorder. We analyze it.

Fear of cats or ailurophobia: what is it? What is the cause?

In 1791, in a small town in Plymouth, a jury found that the culprit in the death of a baby was a cat. The animal, it was ruled, had "absorbed" the breath of the child led by the command of a witch. It was, as we well suppose, times of obscurantism and fanaticism in which the figures of the felines were associated with evil designs.

Some point out that irrational fears are often nourished by those atavistic fears that, on occasions, have accompanied man since ancient times. Perhaps ailurophobia or fear of cats has that origin, it is not clear. However, something that the neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell explained is that this type of condition presents several peculiarities.

To begin with, the phobic of cats does not show the same reaction to other types of felines . That is, he does not have an aversion to lynxes, tigers, lions, etc ... They can go to zoos and even show attraction to them. However, they are unable to enter a room where there is a cat.

Sometimes they can even show panic attacks even if the animal is not there and they have hidden it so that it does not meet the phobic person. Let's know more data.

How does this type of phobia manifest itself?

Phobias can manifest themselves in multiple ways and with varying intensity. That is, not everyone who is afraid of cats will show it in the same way. However, on average we can see the following characteristics:

Emotional reactions

  • Aversion and disgust towards cats.
  • Fear can make you avoid visiting friends or family who have this animal.
  • The fear is intense and often capable of blocking people.
  • It is also common for them to feel anger when they perceive that others do not understand their anguish and fear.

Cognitive reactions (thoughts)

  • Inability to think of anything else when they have a cat in front of them. They can only focus on the animal.
  • Thoughts can become paranoid when imagining a thousand everyday situations in which a cat can appear. Walking down the street or entering certain houses is something distressing.
  • Sometimes, it is enough to hear a meow from the street to think that they can enter for them.

Physiological symptoms

  • Tachycardia, dizziness, sweating ...
  • Chest pain, choking sensation.
  • Stomach ache.

The panic attacks are also a reaction that may occur with the fear of cats.

What are the causes?

The origin of phobias can be nonspecific . In other words, it is not always easy to define what motivates it or what feeds it. However, in the case of ailurophobia we can consider the following triggers.

  • Negative past experiences with cats . Having been scratched or bitten by these animals at some point in childhood can trigger a traumatic memory .
  • Sometimes the fear of an animal can be passed down from parent to child. It is enough for a parent to show that repulsion towards cats for children to develop a phobia.
  • In most cases, the fear of cats can arise without a specific trigger.

How is fear of cats treated?

All phobia, whatever it may be, has its origin in anxiety. In this condition, irrational fears, distorted thoughts, uncontrolled emotions and behaviors that escape one's own control intermingle. Therefore, if the person with ailurophobia sees their daily life limited by this type of fear, it is advisable to seek specialized help.

The coping strategy usually starts from the following techniques:

  • The exposure therapy . In this case, it would imply bringing the person closer to those anxious stimuli (cats), to mediate cognitive and emotional reactions.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most suitable to enable the person in the proper management of phobias. Thanks to it, we can detect maladaptive thoughts, regulate emotions and incorporate more adjusted behaviors.
  • Relaxation and breathing techniques are very suitable in these situations as well.

To conclude, although this phobia is not as common as the fear of dogs, it can also be very exhausting. After all, cats are those common tenants in many homes and on many of our streets. Treating this psychological condition will allow us to live much better.

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