I don't understand extreme fear of cats - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 11:01 AM Thread Starter
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I don't understand extreme fear of cats

I know some people have actual medical reasons for phobias, but really, I just don't understand what's so absolutely horrifying about a domestic house cat.

One of my tutoring students is absolutely petrified of Sebastian. In February when we started working together, we'd work at my apartment, but it was too distracting because she'd freak out whenever Sebastian got near her and I'd end up having to put him in another room, which would result in him howling to get out.

After a few times of this, she began inviting me to her apartment for the lesson and I didn't complain because it meant I got to eat dinner with her family, and her mom is an excellent cook. Well this week I've been extremely busy and just didn't have he 4 hours to dedicate to dinner and a lesson so I asked her to come over for a quick hour and a half lesson tonight.

When I opened the door she said, "how about your cat?" and I said, "Oh, he's good, I think he'll behave himself". She cautiously stepped inside, but then stopped when she saw him and said, "OMG he's so BIG!". I laughed and said, "yes, he's grown quite a bit" and motioned for her to sit down, but when I turned around, she was cowering in a corner near the door and refused to step foot out of the entry way. I said, "He won't hurt you, it's OK, I promise. If he gets too close I'll take him away". Sebastian walked over in her direction to investigate and sniff around and she yelped, so I had to lock him in my bedroom just to get the lesson started. Poor guy was meowing for the first 30 minutes...he didn't know what he did wrong to deserve this "time out".

I'd understand it if he bit her or hissed at her or even jumped on her, but he didn't even get within a few feet of her. Lions are scary, wild Panthers, sure, but a house cat who spends the majority of his day sitting in my lap purring? I dunno... I kinda think it might be cultural as opposed to psychological because cats aren't traditionally a Chinese indoor pet. Aside from the more rural people who keep cats for pest control, a lot of people here are afraid of cats. Visitors to my home will reach out to pet Sebastian and then jerk their hand back and screech when he playfully bats at them (with trimmed claws)...like he's a snake or something! One of my friends jumps up and walks to the other side of the room whenever Sebastian tries to sit in his lap. Crazy...

Robin and...
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 11:06 AM
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I was afraid of cats, not to that extent but I didn't like them, I didn't think they liked people, that's what I'd been told. I think it's because they are fast and hard to read. A dog's "happy face" looks very similar to a human's, open mouth, bright eyes, loose body etc. but a cat's face, other than pupil dilation does not change much with mood. Plus people fear that which they do not understand it's like an unsocialized animal, they fear stuff they've never encountered, people get that too.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 11:08 AM Thread Starter
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Hmm I never thought of that! Interesting! I guess dogs are much more approachable although ultimately have a greater potential to be dangerous...

Robin and...
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 12:40 PM
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I don't get why people are scared of spiders. Some people have a fear of feathers or other inanimate stuff. It's just the way things are.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 02:16 PM
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I used to be a bit afraid of cats as a child, but that's probably because I had horrible, horrible allergy to them. My eyes would swell shut and I'd have a hard time breathing. I could never go to a friend's house if they owned a cat... never. I was raised on German Shepherds and horses LOL! I think my fear of cats as a child was reasonable, given the situation. But now... my allergies have changed and we have three indoor cats, and dogs and horses really set off my allergies now. Go figure ?

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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 05:10 PM
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Well Nala would like you all to know that SHE is the cause of most cat phobias in people....

My neighbor is deathly allergic to cats, (we've been good friends 8 years, he's never stepped foot in my house) and because of that allergy he is deathly afraid of cats.

Plus there are SO many people that I've met both online and off that still believe in all those stupid cat myths. Like they'll suck out your breath, murder babies, black cats are evil, all cats are aloof creatures plotting your demise secretly, and so on.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 05:11 PM
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Some fears are learned. I am not saying this persons fear is learned but it might be. My great grandma used to plug her ears and cower during a thunder storm. Her daughter, my grandma did this too, my mother, her daughter did it, Mom taught this to my sister and now my sister is teaching this behaviour to her two 4 year old daughters. So 100 years of phobia is carried on and on and ...

The more people I meet the more I love my cat!

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 06:34 PM
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Robin, Arianwen wants your student to know that she wouldn't harm a hair on her head.

Her emotional state is easily readable, just look at her eyes, her whiskers, her tail, and watch her body language. And she smiles and frowns, too, almost like a human.

Isn't there a Chinese fable about a cat giving good fortune? Um, the cat standing up on her hind legs, with a raised front paw?
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 06:58 PM
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I think a lot of people don't know how to "read" a cat as easily as they can tell what a dog is thinking. Once you know what things to look for, like tail and ear positions, then it's really easy to get into the mind of a cat. But... a lot of people just don't know that.

I agree that a lot of phobias can be learned, but a lot of them are just not being exposed to things like cats, therefore anything that is unknown is "scary". My mother in law, for example, will NOT touch any of our cats, and even shies away from them if they get too close. Our cat Monkey is the biggest love-bug we've ever known, we always joke that if Ted Bundy came to our front door, Monkey would be there waiting to play. But my M-I-L is terrified of him and the other two cats. She was never exposed to pets while growing up, and through her adult life. Now, in her 70's, she's just not comfortable around cats, or any other animals for that matter. Makes me sad, since she doesn't know what she's missing when Monkey comes up to her and just wants to be petted and snuggled

Andi
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-06-2008, 07:40 PM
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When I was little, I used to be afraid of Siamese cats - used to think they were evil. My Mom said it was because of the movie "Lady and the Tramp."

Obviously, I don't feel that way anymore.

Cali, Cinderella, Cleo and Charlee

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Always in my heart, my lovely Cinderella, running free at the Bridge.
Always in my heart, my sweet Cali, running free at the Bridge.

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