Understanding And Coping With A Fear Of Cats

By Patricia Oelze|Updated April 13, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Laura Angers, NCC, LPC

To most people, cats are just another possible pet that they could have in their home. Maybe they like them, maybe they don't, but even if they don't care for them, there's not much thought behind it. But for those who have ailurophobia, cats are something else entirely. That's because the fear of cats (ailurophobia) is something extremely debilitating for those who are suffering from it. It's something that can keep you from enjoying your life and doing the things you like or even visiting with friends.

What Is A Fear Of Cats?

Fear of cats, or ailurophobia, is just like any other phobia out there. It can be extremely difficult to cope with, and it can make your life difficult. Think about how often you see cats around you in a typical day. Whether it's a real cat, a picture of a cat, something that's made for cats … you probably see things relatively frequently, once you sit back and think about it. For someone that's afraid of cats and has a debilitating fear of cats, all of those things are a reason to have a panic attack.

While some people with this phobia may only experience trouble seeing real cats, others may have difficulty if they see anything that reminds them of cats or even if they see the word or hear the sounds that they make. Phobias can be stronger or weaker in different people, and the fear response that comes from seeing them can also be stronger or weaker. Some people may experience relatively minor symptoms while others may be completely paralyzed or overwhelmed by the fear that comes from seeing whatever it is they are afraid of.

Symptoms Of Phobias

Most phobias have very similar symptoms, though just what brings them on could vary a little from person to person. You may experience symptoms only if you see a cat directly near you. Maybe you experience symptoms different based on the specific level of interaction. Seeing a picture of a cat may cause you to sweat but having a cat around could cause you to feel nauseous and experience shortness of breath. The specifics of your symptoms are going to be different and unique to you and could occur in any combination or order.

Most who experience phobias experience at least a few of these symptoms: shortness of breath, irregular or racing heartbeat, nausea, sweating, shaking or trouble to speak. There are other symptoms that you might experience, however, and some even have hives or may feel lightheaded, weak or even faint as a result of their phobia. If you are experiencing any extreme reactions to cats or anything else around you, it's important that you seek out treatment and ways to help with the problem so you can get on with living your life the way you want to.

Is It Fear Or Is It Phobia?

Some people are afraid of cats, but not every fear is considered a phobia in need of treatment. Perhaps the better question would be whether it's a phobia in need of help or phobia you can work with. If you simply don't like cats or if you were bitten or scratched by a cat once you might be a little afraid and apprehensive. You may try to avoid being around cats or avoid petting them. The chances are that you don't experience any overwhelming symptoms as a result however and the fear may go away a short while after the negative experience where you're okay with cats again.

For someone with an actual phobia, the fear and the experience of being around a cat is completely debilitating, and they don't know what to do or how to react. They have no way of calming themselves down, and if they find a cat where they didn't expect one, it can have extreme consequences for them. Rather than the symptoms or feelings going away with the passing of time, symptoms will often start to get worse, and the next time they see a cat, it could be even more frightening than the last.

Seeking Out Treatment

Getting treatment for a phobia is essential because without it you simply can't overcome anything on your own. Phobias are your body's way of reacting to something in your brain that says you're in danger. Your body has natural fears, which are built into your body and help to keep you safe. When it develops phobias of other things, however, it was a response to something that happened in your past and caused you to fear that thing. Your body decided it was something that you needed to be protected from and gave you those symptoms because it believes you are in danger.

Changing the way that your body thinks and reacts is important to overcome any phobia, but it's not as simple as you might think in many cases. You'll find that the symptoms come back no matter how many times you tell yourself that you're not going to let it bother you the next time. They come back stronger, and they seem even worse because you were so sure that you were going to be in control this time. That's why you need to get help.

Seeking out treatment from a mental health professional is a great way to help yourself start feeling better and start living your life again. There's no reason that you should be living your life in fear, and if you seek out proper treatment, you can start to work through that fear faster than you might think. Not only that but you'll be able to be the object of your fear without those symptoms someday. You may never want to own a cat yourself, but you won't have a problem walking by one on the street.

Professional Help

Finding a therapist is the best method of professional help that you can get for any phobia. A professional is going to help you understand where the root of the phobia comes from, by deciphering the phobia itself and any original factor that led to developing the phobia. By figuring this out, you may be able to start the process of unraveling the phobia itself. You'll also be able to start working on some of the symptoms that you experience. That means working on ways to decrease the symptoms and decrease the intensity of them.

At some point in your therapy process, you may start exposure therapy. After all, when you're out in the rest of the world, you'll see cats once in a while at least. That means you need to have ways to cope with the experience that doesn't involve the panic that you feel right now. Exposure therapy starts out small but introduces you to your fear in a safe and comfortable environment. That way you know that you're safe and you can slowly work your way up to being around a real cat for even extended periods of time without having to worry about what will happen.

All About BetterHelp

BetterHelp is one way that you can start your therapy process, and it's going to help you a whole lot more than you might think. Going to a professional therapist is a great way to overcome any mental health disorder, including phobias, but going to an office can be daunting. Whether it's the office itself that makes you feel uncomfortable or the process of having to get there for appointments that makes it inconvenient, you'll be able to avoid all of those problems with BetterHelp. That's because BetterHelp is an online service that connects you directly with a professional you can feel comfortable with.

The more important part, however, is that you'll never have to go to a psychiatrists office. Instead, you'll be able to get home from work, classes or anything else and simply log on to your computer, tablet or another internet connected device. You sign in, and there's your therapy appointment, waiting for you. You don't have to go anywhere or worry about missing appointments because of traffic. You don't have to sit in the waiting room or anything at all because it's all right online for you, no matter where you are.

No matter what kind of mental health disorder you're going through or what kind of phobia is holding you, hostage, there is a way to work through what you're experiencing and start improving your life. There's no need to live the way you are a moment longer. Don't let anything interfere with your ability to have fun, go out, get to know new people and even visit those people. While many people try to do what they can for your phobia or may attempt to keep their cats away as much as possible, overcoming that phobia is going to be the best way to enjoy your life and everything in it.

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