Phobias are no laughing matter. An irrational fear never seems irrational to the person experiencing it, and the fear of cats is no different from the fear of spiders or a fear of heights. Around a quarter of Americans have a phobia to a specific animal and for many people, our feline friends just don't seem that friendly! The good news is, there are ways to try and beat the fear of cats. Let's look at why this might be important, and how you might go about beating ailurophobia: the fear of cats.
Why Beating the Fear of Cats is Important
Fear is a natural biological response. When physically threatened, fear opens our eyes wider, pumps more blood through our bodies and gives us a shot of adrenaline to help us either fight a foe, or run away as fast as we can. That’s why sudden fear or anxiety is called the ‘fight or flight’ reflex, because that’s exactly what our bodies want us to do.
Cats, of course, aren’t going to hurt us. The brain is telling the body that the cat is scary, even though rationally, we know it’s not true. Repeatedly exposing our bodies to stress and adrenaline is not good for our bodies or brains. It leaves us feeling washed out, exhausted and even depressed.
Fear of cats can be particularly exhausting because so many friends and family members have cats in their lives. It’s very unlikely you will go through your entire life avoiding everyone who owns a cat. Support is available to help you deal with that fear, and hopefully overcome it.
Hypnotherapy vs Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy doesn’t mean locking yourself in a room with a hundred cats! It means gradually desensitizing yourself to the presence of cats. It might start with looking at pictures of cats, or viewing cats from a distance. When this becomes bearable, a friend or family member might help the subject spend time with a cat. A trained therapist can support with exposure therapy.
Hypnotherapy means visiting a trained hypnotherapist who will most likely use imagination exercises or guided meditation to induce a calm and relaxed state. In this state, the subject will be encouraged to discuss their fear, and how cats make them feel, and the hypnotherapist will utilize the deep relaxation to try and reduce negative emotions associated with cats.
Remembering When the Fear of Cats Began
Something either type of therapist may want to know is when the fear of cats started. Is it a by-product of generalized anxiety? Or did something happen to the sufferer as a child which has impacted their whole life? A toddler who was scratched by a cat may grow into an adult with a subconscious memory of a huge, hissing beast that wants to hurt them. Or maybe the person with the fear of cats associates cats with a bad time in their life; a nasty break up, or a home invasion.
Whatever the cause of cat fear, it’s important to talk about it, be open and remember you are not alone! Hypnotherapy and exposure therapy may be options, and with help, most people are able to overcome their fear of cats.