Far less common than the fear of dogs, and far more difficult to comprehend. Because, seriously, most cats sleep all day and run away when you come near them. Plus they’re only a foot high. How scary is that?
Scary Cat Fact #1: Cat scratch fever isn’t just a bad song. It’s a disease transmitted by cat spit to almost 25,000 people a year in the US and Canada, typically via a cat bite or scratch. It is not usually serious (unless it spreads to the brain or bones or eyes, in which case it’s really serious.)
Cats chill the blood of a few phobics. Phobias are irrational fears, remember. And Ailurophobia is especially irrational, running deeper than most animal fears. Ailurophics are not afraid of having their ankles scratched. They’re afraid of something a little more supernatural.
Most people afraid of cats believe that cats are evil. Not “dangerous.” Evil. Witches and demons and ghosts kind of evil. It’s not the body that’s at risk around felines; it’s the soul.
Scary Cat Fact #2: “All cats are demons,” according to 16th century demonologist Nicholas Remy. So there you have it.
They move so silently, like smoke, disappearing in a flash, and they stay so still that you don’t see them sitting there staring at you until you almost trip over them. It feels like they appear out of nowhere. Add to that the way they look at you like they couldn’t care less if you lived or died (because they couldn’t care less) plus their sharp little fangs and creepy hisses, and the way they torture mice for twenty minutes before they kill them, and sheesh, cats really do seem evil.
Scary Cat Fact #3: Cats like to kill. They like it a lot. Cats kill billions of songbirds a year in the US alone (that’s billions, not just millions).
But cats are just critters. They’re not evil. They’re mostly adorable (if you’re not a songbird or mouse or rabbit or chipmunk or squirrel or fish…..) Except there’s the odd cat that rubs up against your leg asking for a pet and then when you bend down to pet it, it bites your hand. God, I hate those cats.
I knew a cat like that when I was a kid, and it was the only cat I knew. (It roamed the neighbourhood rubbing into legs and I’d be fooled every time. “Maybe it wants to be friends,” I’d think. Hiss. Scratch. Nope.) My mother hated cats, and in between her lesson of “all cats are demons” and that one nasty cat, I grew up ailurophobic. But then I saw a sad little kitten in a pet shop window when I was 15, and I embraced exposure therapy.
If your hair stands on end when you see a cat, if you won’t visit your friend’s house since she got a cat, if you plan your trip around the mall so as to avoid passing the pet shop, then you’re ailurophobic, and you need to conquer this phobia.
Or not. Maybe you can live with it just fine. Napoleon Bonaparte was afraid of cats, and it never stopped him from going out conquering.
But if you want to embrace cats – and they are supercute and cuddly and purring is such a happy sound – then get to it. Slowly.
First, look at pictures of cute little kittens. They don’t want to steal your soul, do they? Next work up to adult cats. (But skip sphinxes or you’ll be two steps forward, three steps back because those things are freaky.) Find a friend with a gentle loving cat to sit in a room with. Once you’re feeling okay with that, sit closer and closer to the cat until you can pet it without freaking out. It won’t turn into a witch, you’ll see.
Eventually, one day when you’re hanging out at your cat-friend’s place, you’ll open a book and the cat will walk over and lay on it, right at the spot where you were reading. So you’ll get up to make a cup of tea and the cat will race in front of your feet, right in the spot where you’re walking. Then you’ll pour milk in your tea and the cat will stick its face right in your cup. And you’ll come to see that cats are not evil, just annoying. And that’s progress.
Scary Cat Fact #5:
Over 60,000 shelter cats are put to sleep each year in Canada. In the US, the number is in the millions: a cat or dog is put to sleep every 11 seconds in the US alone. That’s a lot creepier than 16th century notions of witches and demons.
There’s no character afraid of cats in 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6. But if you’re afraid of cats, or anything else, leave a comment on this blog during Fearless February, and maybe you’ll win a copy of my newest book.