We all have irrational fears. Well most of us do anyway. I don’t have real phobias which I am glad about. I am scared of things. I don’t like spiders and Daddy Long Legs make me leap around like some sort of crazed lunatic. In fact, if I could spend life avoiding creepy critters of all kinds, I would be a happy bunny, but as I have got older, I have definitely become better at dealing with these things. I am very proud of the fact that I can now actually pick the odd bug up in a tissue and throw it outside, as long as it isn’t too big that is.
My husband is ailurophobic. This means that he has a fear of cats. A real fear of cats. When we first met, I thought this was quite funny. Whenever we went anywhere where there were cats, he would become really agitated and the cats would always head straight for him too, it was like they somehow knew. I am allergic to cats, but love them and so I would find his ‘fear’ highly amusing until I realised that this wasn’t like my dislike of spiders, it was a genuine fear and the thought of a cat anywhere near him brought him out in a cold sweat. He always says that he would rather wrestle a crocodile than stroke a cat. Dogs are fine, he loves dogs and other animals, but cats are a big no-no.
Being allergic to animal fur has given us the best excuse to the inevitable “we want a pet!” debates. As much as it would be good for the children to have a pet, I don’t really want to spend my life sneezing and rubbing my eyes. But there is a huge downside to this problem and that is that it makes your children very wary of animals and this can sometimes be a real issue.
Both R and L were always terrified of dogs. It came out of nowhere, but suddenly, they were both terrified and they seem to feed off each other’s fear. We had to cross roads in some instances and if we were visiting people who had dogs, they wouldn’t get out of the car. I tried my best to reassure them and to point out that most dogs were on leads and that if they weren’t it was because their owners trusted them to be off the lead. At the same time though, I did have to say that they should never approach a dog unless the owner said it was OK, as you do have to be careful with dogs.
Over time, they have grown up a bit and they have been to friend’s houses who have had dogs and this has helped massively. They have seen that dogs are on the whole friendly and although they are still nervous around jumpy dogs, we don’t have to cross the road to avoid them anymore.
Now I have little miss A to deal with. She is terrified of anything animal or bird like. We live near a small wood which is full of squirrels and they terrify her. The cute rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters in the pet shop terrify her. We went to a farm park last week and I tried to take her into the feeding barn to see the baby animals and she screamed like a thing possessed Like her brothers before her, the sight of a dog completely stops her in her tracks. We went on a visit to a working farm with play group a few months back and the very friendly farm dog accompanied us. It meant that I had to carry A round the farm for three hours as she would not be put down. As she kept crying, the dog kept coming to see us to see what was going on, which made it worse. I have never been so glad to go home in my life.
However, the biggest problem is cats. A is terrified of them. Maybe it is the way they silently appear which frightens her, I’m not sure, but if she knows that we are going to visit someone who has a cat, I have a real fight on my hands to get her through the door. This wasn’t a huge problem until recently, but A now goes to a child minder for two days a week in preparation for my return to work and the child minder has a cat.
A loves her child minder. She has enjoyed going there from day one and constantly talked about her and the things they had done. Of course she knew that there was a cat but as the weather has turned chillier, the cat is in the house more and A has now decided that she doesn’t want to go there any more Even the child minder has said that it has become a problem as A has to go with her all the time, even to the toilet as she won’t be left alone in the living room in case the cat comes in.
I am at a bit of a loss. You can’t rationalise with a two-year-old. I have talked to her and I have shown her pictures of different cats on the computer and reassured her that she will be fine and that they won’t hurt her. I took her to the farm park as I thought it might be good to show her a range of animals and try to desensitise her a bit, but she was more interested in the little ride-on tractors.
I hope that this is just a phase and that it is not a genuine phobia like her father’s. How do you know? I could get a cat I suppose, but I would be ill and my husband would leave, so that is possibly not the best course of action. If any of you have any good ideas or have had any experience of this, all advice would be gratefully received.