Monday 6 February 2023

Guardian journalist overcame her fear of cats using 2 methods

Having read Annalisa Barbieri's article in The Guardian online newspaper, I can take from it two methods that she used overcome her irrational fear of cats.

There is no doubt that she suffered from ailurophobia which is the scientific name for a fear of cats. It was a lifelong fear which she readily admits in the first sentence.

Annalisa Barbieri and Sidney
Annalisa Barbieri and Sidney. Photo: Dan Burn-Forti/The Observer

This fear ruled her life until she became a mother and her children asked for a cat. She said no. And then gradually, she decided to take the plunge and adopt a kitten.

But she wasn't really prepared for it. She felt that she wanted to do this but I sense, reading between the lines, that she had not got her head in gear. She dived in and initially it did not work out.

She admits that she thought that domestic cats were tricky and that they wanted to harm her. And then a friend of hers, Tasmin, a person that she describes as being "a cat pro" came over and spent the day with her because clearly Tasmin understood that Annalisa was having trouble and she wanted to help.

Her adopted cat is a beautiful gray (blue) male who they named Sidney. He was 13 weeks old when they adopted him. A young cat. But he has a very beautiful personality, very calm and ideal for Annalisa.

Despite his personality she was fearful because of a deep, ingrained irrational fear. She watched Tasmin play with Sidney and noticed that Sidney genuinely wanted to play. However, when Sidney played with her, she felt that he was trying to be tricky and wanted to harm her.

Having seen Sidney behave under these two scenarios she was able to make the rational decision that she was perceiving Sidney's behaviour in the wrong way. The problem was hers she admitted.

So that objective appraisal of her mentality unlocked the door to enable her to follow the normal route of acclimatising herself to a domestic cat in baby steps. That is the way you overcome a fear of cats or any fear. You do what you are frightened of but in very small steps which makes each step manageable. In doing so you chip away at that irrational fear.

And that's what happened. There came a moment when she realised that she loved cats. She could kiss Sidney. She can 'read' him and understanding him and no doubt this skill is reciprocated.

The key, in conclusion, is to realise that the problem is yours and not the cat's and then to chip away at that fear in tiny steps because if you take big steps you reinforce your fear. That's because the interaction can go wrong.

There is no doubt that if a person is fearful of a domestic cat, they are not really going to interact well with them which might encourage their cat to take a swipe, perhaps in play. That would be enough to set back the whole process to square one and even worse potentially.

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