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There are said to be around 15 million people worldwide who suffer from ailurophobia. Some greats in world history were also supposedly afraid of cats, including Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte or Gaius Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan. Phobia can be very stressful for those affected, for example because it makes it difficult to deal with friends who have a cat or because it can lead to fearful encounters in public.
What is ailurophobia and how does it express itself?
Ailurophobia is the technical term for the fear of cats, which can generally refer to representatives of the animal species or to specimens with certain characteristics such as a certain coat color or a special coat pattern. This has little to do with a mere aversion or antipathy towards cats. Anyone suffering from phobia becomes afraid as soon as they notice cats in their environment. This fear can increase until a panic attack. Typical symptoms are sweating, tremors, dizziness and rapid heartbeat. Fainting can also cause fainting if the cat is particularly severe.
What are the causes of cat phobia?
There are many explanations for the anxiety disorder. Possible causes are, for example, superstition, traumatic experiences or drive disorders, although the latter still falls under the area of theory. The most common cause is probably traumatic experiences, mainly from childhood. For example, if a child was frightened or attacked by a cat in childhood, this can sometimes be reflected in such a deep-seated fear.
The zoologist and behavioral researcher Desmond Morris suspects that the anxiety disorder in some people can be attributed to a suppressed sex drive or to the fear of the female gender. After all, cats are often associated with the female.
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Treating cat phobia: what does the therapy look like?
Like most phobias, ailurophobia can also be treated. With the help of a therapist, you can discuss and approach the appropriate therapy. This will first research the causes, as it can be important to know why there is a fear of cats. The most promising treatment is desensitization. It is about gradually exposing the person suffering from ailurophobia to increasingly intensive contact with cats. The motto: If you gradually face your fear, you will overcome it at some point, ideally even completely.
Desensitization in a cat phobia can, for example, look like that first you look at cat pictures, then you look at an animal at a safe distance and in the next step you are in the same room with the velvet paw, and later even pats and cares for it. Such therapy can take weeks or even months, as it is sometimes necessary to be very careful. If you suffer from the anxiety disorder and are looking for help, talk to your doctor or a therapist.