I’m going to let you in on a secret. Likely after this secret you’ll think less of me, but bear in mind I didn’t have to share this secret with you.
I’m scared of cats.
No, not like cougars and lions. House cats, the ones we pretend to have domesticated. Now, I don’t hate them, but I suffer a literally paralyzing fear of them.
This is the only fear that I have. High spaces, cramped quarters, death, public speaking, these things bother me not at all. Only cats. It is a completely irrational fear, I’m aware. It’s irrational for several reasons.
First, I’m pretty sure I could take a cat in a fight. In fact, I would dare say that I could take MANY cats in a fair fight, even more if I was allowed a baseball bat. So why should I fear that which I can overcome with relative ease?
Second, if somehow the cats got the drop on me and managed to kill me, that’s fine. Now, I’m not suicidal, or even depressed, I just suffer no fear of death. All of us are going to die sooner or later. Some of us may live to a ripe old age and pass away in a hospital with machines violating all of our orifices. Others might die peacefully in their sleep (like my uncle). Still others may die screaming in a horrible car wreck (like the passengers in my uncle’s car). The fact remains, none of us are getting out of this alive, and we may as well enjoy it. That said, why should I be scared of anything if I’m not scared of the termination of my life?
As a brief aside, I did not have an uncle who fell asleep while driving a car, thus dooming him and his passengers to death. I didn’t even come up with the joke in the first place. I apologize for misleading you and promise not to do it again.
Third, I don’t fear the big cats (the aforementioned cougars and lions as examples). Now if you locked me in a cage with one, I’d be a little apprehensive perhaps, cautious even, but ultimately I’d prefer it to being in a room with a house cat.
Lastly, I am not scared of kittens. Seriously, itty bitty kittens are adorable. How can you not love them and want to play with them? Now please someone explain to me how my brain decides not to be scared of something until it reaches a certain age, and then it’s terrifying?
I don’t care if your cat weighs 500 pounds and is essentially a sofa that never moves. I don’t care if it’s the sweetest, gentlest cat in the world. I don’t care if “he’s like a dog really”. If it’s a cat, I fear it deeply. I sometimes have nightmares about a demon cat trying to kill me. I never have anything but pillows to hold it off with. I never win the fight, I just keep trying to hold it off until I wake up.
I can’t even say for sure how this fear began. My best guess is when I was attacked by my babysitter’s cat at a very young age. He was supposedly the nicest and sweetest cat in the neighborhood, until I went to pet him. Now I swear to you, I did nothing but attempt to pet the cat. I wasn’t trying to hit it, taunt it, abuse it, frighten it, molest it, or rape it. I went to pet the cat, and was clawed. Even today I can see the scar (although it’s so faint I don’t show it to anyone out of embarrassment).
Another source might have been the movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I watched it several times as a kid, and just rewatched it as an adult. The cat in that movie is terrifying. I think it’s actually the cat that features in my nightmares.
Anyway, this unique fear has caused me to be the subject of scorn and derision on many occasions, as well as putting me in some sticky situations. What follows are a collect of cat stories.
My grandfather had a cat. Nobody liked this cat, but nobody liked my grandfather either, so it worked out pretty well for them. When I would stay at my grandfather’s house I would usually sleep on a couch (until my mid 20’s, when I argued for a right to sleep in one of the 5 bedrooms). The first night I slept there after he got the cat was one that will live with me forever.
I’m suddenly woken up from my slumber to find the cat laying on my chest staring at me. I can not move. I can’t cry out to my sister on the next couch over to help me. I can’t roll over to dislodge the cat. I can not move. As I stare at the cat he very slowly and purposefully closes his eyes and goes to sleep. I spend the next 7 hours staring at the cat. After that night my sister often would help me trap the cat in an empty bedroom before we went to sleep. We made sure it had a nice comfy bed, and we always let it out in the morning.
I’ve NEVER let my fear of cats lead to abusing cats. I have nothing but contempt for anyone who would abuse an animal, especially domesticated ones that have been taught to trust and relay on us. What kind of person can honestly violate that kind of trust?
My friends have always known of my fear, it’s impossible to hide. One day I was invited over to a friend’s apartment. She realized I was terrified of cats, and she had what seemed to be dozens of them. Commando style she herded the cats to one side of the apartment while escorting me into her room. This is when the problem struck. The doors on either side of her bedroom had been modified so as to allow the cats easy passage from one room to another. These weren’t cat-flaps, these were just big squares cut out of the doors. She quickly blocked the squares with plastic tubs. This alerted the cats that something was going down. Suddenly from both sides countless hordes of cats began pawing at the plastic tubs. Plastic SEE-THROUGH tubs. I could WATCH the cats trying to get to me. It was worse than any scene from Aliens, and quite honestly worse than any demon-cat nightmare I’ve ever had. I honestly don’t remember how I got out of that apartment, I think I may have passed out.
My biggest problem with this fear is the paralyzing factor. When I see a cat, especially if I’m not expecting to see one, every muscle in my body freezes, and I can NOT unfreeze them. The best example is when I left my apartment to go to work one day. I locked the door behind me, turned around, and there was a cat on the other side of the hallway. It stared at me, making it very clear it had no intention of moving. I stood there for 30 minutes. At any point I could have reached my hand back about two inches to knock on my apartment door. Daniel would have answered and rescued me. two inches was way too far for frozen muscles. After 30 minutes Daniel did emerge however, as he had work as well. Upon opening the door and seeing me still standing practically in the door frame, he asked “Where’s the cat?” Once he realized I couldn’t respond, the lifted me up and moved me out of the way so that he could shoo off the cat. He was my personal hero that day.
One last story, and of a different sort. A homeless cat had taken up residence in our apartment complex. Daniel and his friend David named is Sirius (they were both astronomers, and thought themselves quite clever naming a cat after the “dog-star”.) Even I would on occasion leave out food for Sirius, but I’d never go near him. One day when I was going to the gas station Sirius quickly rushed in through my open door and curled up by my back window. I was flabbergasted. Part of me just wanted to lock up the car and run away, possibly to another country. I couldn’t do that though, I didn’t want to be responsible for the cat’s death, nor be without my car until it did pass on. I tried to shoo the cat out of my car, but it was very happy where it was. Finally I performed the bravest act of my life. I got in my car. I think I drove about 10 miles per hour to the gas station, watching the cat in my rear view mirror the entire time. Sirius never stirred. Finally when I got back home, he got out. I decided at that point that I had a pet cat. A pet cat that terrified me, and probably secretly wanted me dead.
Later that winter we had a particularly bad cold snap. The temperature got down to the single digits. I told Daniel that we simple could NOT leave Sirius out in that weather. Daniel was a cat lover, but still wasn’t entirely sure about my plan. We had no litter box, and pets were against the apartment code. I finally persuaded him to line the bathroom with newspapers and put the cat in there for the night. True, he’d be locked in a small room all night, but it was going to be better than sleeping in the freezing cold. What happened when I needed to go to the bathroom that night? I didn’t, I held it, like a man, a very very scared little man.
I’ve been working very hard on my fear over the past several years. I’ve even progressed some. If I know there’s going to be a cat, I can move around it….unless it gets close enough to touch me. Even an unexpected cat doesn’t cause me to lock up for more than a few minutes anymore.
I think ultimately there is probably a simple way to cure this fear. Since I don’t fear kittens, all I need to do is raise a cat from a kitten. Seriously, after caring for a living creature for a year or so, I doubt I’ll wake up one day terrified of the thing.
I may even do that someday, but for now I’m sticking with my dog.