Ailurophobia is one of the less common phobias. People with this syndrome always have extreme feelings of fear, anxiety, and trembling when they see a cat or hear a cat meow. It sounds harmless, but feline phobia causes many problems in life, so most will be prescribed treatment.
Ailurophobia – What is Ailurophobia?
Cats are small, adorable animals and are often kept as pets. Not only has a cute appearance, raising a cat helps to heal wounds in the soul, reduce stress and significantly assist in the treatment of psychological problems. However, many people are afraid, even haunted and terrified when they see cats or hear meows.
Ailurophobia – Ailurophobia is a type of anxiety disorder. This syndrome refers to a phobia, extreme and persistent fear of cats, although these animals are not nearly as dangerous to humans as wild animals. Catphobia is also known by other terms such as Gatophobia, Galeophobia, Elurophobia, Aelurophobia and Felinephobia. However, Ailurophobia remains the most commonly used term.
Similar to other phobias, people with feline phobia often avoid images, video clips, and situations where cats may be encountered. Besides dogs, cats are favorite pets and can be encountered anywhere. When encountering cats, people with Ailurophobia can become panic, afraid, insecure, heart palpitations, nausea, etc. It is not possible to avoid cats in today’s life. Therefore, all cases of this syndrome will have to be treated.
Recognizing the fear of cats
Catphobia is similar to other phobic anxiety disorders – except for the source of the fear. Fear is one of the most common human emotions. However, this feeling will only appear when witnessing with potentially dangerous situations/objects.
Meanwhile, people with phobias often have irrational fears about objects/situations with almost no potential for any threat. People with cat phobia are always afraid of the following situations:
- Fear of encountering cats and being attacked by cats, scratching their skin, etc.
- Afraid of touching cat fur
- Fear of seeing cats in books, video clips, movies, etc.
- Fear of hearing a cat meow whether it is a real cat or the meows emitted from video clips, movies, etc.
People with feline phobia feel fear and insecurity even when meeting domestic cats who have been raised and trained since childhood. Many people with this syndrome share, they always have the feeling that they will be attacked by cats or afraid of being enchanted by evil cats.
Signs of a fear of cats (Ailurophobia):
- Persistent feelings of anxiety, fear, and insecurity about meeting a cat or hearing a cat meow
- Avoid situations where cats may encounter
- Never mention cats in conversation
When patients see cats through books, movies, or face-to-face with cats, patients often develop strong symptoms such as:
- Sweat a lot
- Stress, fear
- Heart beat fast
- Shortness of breath, shallow breathing
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Muscle tension
- Want to get out of the current situation immediately
In daily life, people with feline phobia are often very cautious for fear of facing this animal. Patients often close windows and doors to prevent stray cats from entering the house and to not hear cats meowing at night.
Causes of fear of cats
Cat phobia can occur independently or it can also co-occur with agoraphobia (Zoophobia) or fear of wild animals (Agrizoophobia). In addition, this syndrome can be accompanied by other psychological problems such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.
Catphobia can be seen in adults and children with a higher rate than in women. Experts are still not able to determine the exact cause of this syndrome. However, several factors have been identified to play a role in the pathogenesis including:
- Negative experiences in the past: People who have been attacked by cats or infected by cats have a higher risk of developing Ailurophobia. Negative experiences will cause the brain to “remember” emotions such as fear, anxiety, and fear. anxiety, insecurity and pain. When faced with a similar situation, the brain sends out a “signal” by causing feelings of fear and panic. This is an unconscious defense mechanism formed from life experiences.
- Family history: If there is a family history of catphobia, the risk of developing this syndrome increases significantly. In addition, the likelihood of developing Ailurophobia is also increased if the family has panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or other phobic anxiety disorders.
- Cat myths: In some cultures, cats are seen as evil animals, representing evil spirits and witches. These stories inadvertently instill an undue fear of cats in some people.
- Influenced by other phobias: Some people may develop feline phobia as a result of a fear of animals and wild animals. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder may also have an overwhelming fear of cats because they fear the animals will expose themselves to fungal and bacterial infections.
Complications of the fear of cats (Ailurophobia)
Cat phobia is not simply a feeling of dislike for animals but an extreme fear, anxiety, and insecurity when seeing cats. This syndrome greatly affects quality of life and can increase problems related to physical and mental health.
People with an overwhelming fear of cats often only go out when necessary and rarely walk for fear of encountering cats. Cats are a favorite pet, so this syndrome will also make patients avoid going to cafes and the private homes of relatives and friends. Gradually, the patient will tend to isolate, communicate less and find it difficult to maintain close relationships.
When seeing cats, patients will become panic, stressed, anxious with physical symptoms such as headache, chest tightness, nausea, etc., right in public places. This condition increases anxiety and insecurity and makes the person more likely to lock themselves in the house. Many people even choose to work from home and order food and drinks through apps to minimize going out.
Similar to other phobias, catphobia increases the risk of depression and anxiety disorders. In addition, long-term feelings of fear, insecurity, and stress have also been linked to increased physical ailments such as insomnia, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, shoulder pain, chronic headaches, and more. …
Diagnosing cat fear syndrome
If you feel you have persistent anxiety and fear about cats, you should take the initiative to seek help. Diagnosis of this syndrome is mainly based on the clinical presentation and the effect of fear of cats on quality of life.
Catphobia will be diagnosed when the following criteria are met:
- Excessive and persistent anxiety and fear when seeing or hearing cat meows
- Upon seeing cats, fear must be increased with panic and physical symptoms. Dominant fear causes the patient to run away with the aim of staying away from the cat.
- Unreasonable fear of cats leads to avoidance actions such as not reading books, newspapers, movies with cats and not going to private houses, cafes with cats, etc.
- Fear of cats disproportionate to the degree of danger (fear even if it is a kitten or cat that is well cared for, not infected, etc.)
- Symptoms must last for at least 6 months
Methods to treat the fear of cats
Cats are animals that are close to humans, so it is difficult to completely avoid them. This is also the reason why people with feline phobia tend to lock themselves in the house and are very afraid to go out due to fear.
To be able to overcome fear, patients will be considered some of the following treatment methods:
1. Exposure therapy
Exposure therapy is the treatment of choice for phobias and anxiety disorders, including Ailurophobia. This therapy is done with the aim of eliminating irrational fear of cats, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving avoidant behaviors.
As the name suggests, the patient will be “exposed” to fear in increasing degrees. Initially, the patient will see the image, hear the cat meowing sound, etc. Before this situation, the patient will become scared and panic. The expert will teach you coping techniques and how to manage your fears. With the help of a professional, patients can manage their feelings of fear in these situations.
The patient is then exposed to the fear through other situations such as watching a video clip, holding a toy cat, and finally touching the real cat. During the treatment process will be accompanied by the specialist. The therapist will guide the person through these situations and gradually adapt to the fear.
2. Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered in many cases of catphobia. This therapy is developed based on the concept that thoughts (cognition), behavior and emotions are three factors that interact. By changing negative thoughts about cats, patients can reduce their fear and anxiety about encountering this animal.
Cognitive behavioral therapy will also help patients change avoidant behaviors so that they are more comfortable and able to experience life to the fullest.
Hypnotherapy is often performed to find out the underlying cause of the patient’s excessive fear of cats. In this therapy, the specialist can identify negative events that occurred in the past and heal the trauma so that the patient can reduce his excessive fear of this harmless animal.
Hypnotherapy will put the patient into a state of suggestion. Through this state, the specialist can correct negative changes and help the patient to open up to receive objective and correct information about the cat. When negative thoughts such as fear of being infected by a cat, scratching or being charmed by a cat, etc., are eliminated, feelings of irrational and unusual fear about cats will be markedly improved.
4. Support measures
Psychotherapy is the mainstay of treatment for phobic anxiety disorders. However, this method has the limitation of taking a long time. Therefore, doctors encourage patients to take supportive measures to improve physical and mental health.
Supportive measures cannot eliminate irrational fears about the type of cat. However, these measures will help reduce some of the stress, anxiety, and depression caused by the fear of cats. At the same time, it is very helpful in supporting the spirit during treatment.
Supportive measures for patients with cat phobia:
- If the patient has symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, etc., the doctor may prescribe some treatment drugs such as antidepressants, tranquilizers and beta-blockers. Medicines only help relieve symptoms, so they are mainly used short-term or used in tandem with psychotherapy for emotional support.
- Fear of cats will keep the patient in a state of stress and insecurity. Therefore, it is advisable to take relaxation measures such as meditation, yoga, massage, aromatherapy, music therapy, etc. every day.
- Learn to share with others to gain understanding and empathy. In addition, you can join groups of people with phobias to gain more experience managing their own fears.
Instead of spending a lot of time thinking about your fears, focus on developing yourself and doing activities that you love such as painting, knitting, learning a foreign language, cooking, etc.
Ailurophobia can be treated with psychotherapy. Therefore, if this syndrome is suspected, the patient should see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment advice. Early therapeutic intervention will help patients overcome their fears and quickly stabilize their lives instead of having to hide from and persistent fears.