Although cats are not everyone’s favorite pet, there are some people who have an abnormal fear of cats which may include symptoms such as intense fear, sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, dry mouth, tightness in the throat or chest. In some extreme cases, a person may be afraid to leave the house for fear of encountering a cat. Historical records suggest that some of the warriors of history were afraid of cats. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Julius Caesar and Mussolini may have all suffered from ailurophobia.
Ailurophobia can have a number of causes. The most common reason is due to some early childhood trauma. A person who was bitten or scratched by a cat may develop a fear of cats even if he doesn’t remember the incident. Fear of cats can also be transmitted from parent to child, since children model their parents’ behavior. Some people believe in ancient superstitions which regard cats as evil, associated with black magic, witchcraft and Halloween.
Ironically, cats often gravitate toward people who are scared of them. Cats don’t like to be stared at and handled excessively, so they feel at ease with people who don’t try to pick them up and don’t stare at them.
Unfortunately, some people are too embarrassed to seek therapy, since fear of cats seems irrational. Sufferers from the condition may also be reluctant to seek advice from family or friends, anticipating ridicule and humiliation. If the phobia is impinging on a person’s life, it is important that he seek help for it.
Treatment of ailurophobia is psychological. A psychologist will work with a client to desensitize him to cats by gradual exposure. He will expose him to pictures of cats, then videos, than cats in a window, etc. until the client is able to be in the same room as a free roaming cat. Other therapies may be combined with desensitization, such as hypnotherapy. Intense, sudden exposure to cats is not recommended.