Cat Phobia (ailurophobia): Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Cats are one of humans’ favorite pets; However, while some individuals love these little creatures, others feel intense fear of them.

It seems difficult to believe that there are people who feel terrified in the presence of these animals, especially considering that many scientific research has shown that these small cats provide many benefits to humans. For example, they help prevent allergies in children, improve self-esteem and mood, or prevent respiratory infections. However, the world of phobias is diverse and to a certain extent independent of rationality.

Cat phobia: what is it

Although cats tend to have a reputation for being somewhat selfish and interested, especially when there is food involved, a scientific study has proven that they love humans more than we used to think (you can learn about this study by clicking here). But regardless of whether we like cats more or less, some people They experience an irrational fear of these animalsa fear that causes great anxiety and makes them try to avoid its presence at all costs.

This disorder It is known as aliurophobia or cat phobia..

A phobia is an extreme, irrational and persistent fear of a specific object, activity or situation. It belongs to the group of anxiety disorders, in which exposure to the feared stimulus can cause different symptoms such as nervousness, anxiety, sweating, tremors, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, etc. The phobia towards cats is totally irrational, and although a cat does not represent a real danger to these people, the mere presence of it can trigger this strong involuntary reaction.

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What causes this phobia

Experts say that phobias have different causes, although the most common is the occurrence of a traumatic event from the past.

For example, when a child is bitten by a cat, he or she can generalize and see all animals of this species as potential attackers, regardless of whether they are aggressive or tame. This occurs because a type of associative learning called classical conditioningwhich was originally discovered by Ivan Pavlov and later popularized by John Watson.

Classical conditioning is also called stimulus-response learning or ER. If you want to delve deeper into how this learning occurs. You can read this article: “Classical conditioning and its most important experiments”

False beliefs can also cause this phobiabecause cats are often associated with black magic, witchcraft, sadism and evil, especially black cats, thanks to Halloween legends, superstitions and countless literary works.

Furthermore, some researchers believe that the genetic origin It may or may not favor the appearance of phobias, that is, some people are more likely to suffer from this type of fear than other people. Other experts believe that personality plays an important role in phobias, as people with anxious personality traits would be more likely to suffer from this irrational fear.

What characteristics does this pathology present?

Phobias are far from the fear that a person may feel towards a cat that may show an aggressive attitude. And normally cats do not usually threaten humans, but they feel very comfortable in their presence, especially domestic cats. Some of them, in fact, seek constant displays of affection when surrounded by people.

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For the fear of cats to be considered a phobia, it must be irrational and not associated with coherent thoughts, cause great discomfort in the presence of any cat, being persistent, being uncontrollable and, therefore, causing the avoidance of the phobic stimulus, in this case, cats.

Symptoms of allurophobia

The most common symptoms of ailurophobia in people are:

Treatment

The treatment of this phobia is no different from that of other phobias and, since it usually occurs due to classical conditioning, cognitive behavioral therapy is usually one of the preferred treatments due to its great effectiveness.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on modifying a person’s thoughts and behavior that is considered maladaptive and that is the cause of the discomfort. The therapist, to begin with, usually helps the patient understand why he has developed a phobia, and usually provide him with a series of tools so that he can overcome it.

The idea is that the subject replaces the negative and irrational thoughts he or she has towards cats with more realistic and adaptive ones. Therapy sessions also help to release the stress and tension that one has been having due to the phobia.

Techniques used

Some of the most used techniques in cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of phobias are expository techniques and relaxation techniques. Therefore, the therapist guides the person through regular exposures that include the presence of the cats.

This is usually done gradually, and usually begins, for example, with photographs of cats, videos, stuffed animals and, finally, real cats. Furthermore, the objective of one of these expository techniques, called systematic desensitizationis to encourage more useful coping skills when the patient is exposed to the phobic stimulus.

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Different forms of relaxation are also taught in psychotherapy sessions, including Breath control and mental visualizationsand other therapeutic methods such as Mindfulness or clinical Hypnosis can be used.

Medications, usually anxiolytics (although also antidepressants), can be used in more severe cases, those in which the patient has panic attacks.

New technologies applied to the treatment of phobias

New technologies are also beginning to be used for the treatment of these pathologies, since they have proven to be very useful. Virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality improves the patient’s therapeutic experience.

Likewise, there are different “apps” for mobile phones that can be used to treat phobias and are useful for this purpose.