The love for animals is something more and more widespread in our society, and the number of people who choose to have a dog or a cat as a pet is increasing. In psychology, we refer to the concept of philia as the fondness or attraction towards certain realities or situations; applied to animals, we speak of ailurophilia when there is a great fascination for cats, something that a priori can generate sympathy but that, nevertheless, can become pathological if the attraction becomes uncontrollable.
What is ailurophilia?
To define the word ailurophilia, in the first place, it is important to know its etymology. The term ailurophilia comes from the Greek words “ailuro” , which means cat , and “philos” , which translates as love or attraction to something . This passion for cats, which can sometimes be excessive and therefore pathological, provokes feelings of affection, admiration, fascination and even sexual pleasure in the person . In the cases in which the latter occurs (and the person feels physical attraction towards these animals) we would be talking about a paraphilia, a pattern of behavior that implies the existence of an interest and a sexual approach towards the feline.
Paraphilias with animals can become truly disabling in the most severe cases and turn into a mental disorder; in that case, the person cannot help but think constantly and obsessively about the animal and has great difficulties in curbing his sexual impulses, in addition to a variety of symptoms that we describe below.
Symptoms of ailurophilia
People can present different degrees of ailurophilia, and we can speak of three conditions or large groups of symptoms:
1. Ailurophilia or love for cats
The love for animals and, especially, the love that many people feel for their pets is something natural and completely normal. Having an interest and fascination for these animals can be a source of positive energy that provides great well-being and this does not have to lead to an excessive attraction. In fact, the great availability of images of cats that we have, both on television and on the internet, makes the attraction towards these felines develop faster than that which can occur towards other animals.
2. Ailurophilia as a paraphilic disorder
A small percentage of people who develop a great passion for cats may end up becoming obsessed with these animals and end up suffering from a mental disorder: a paraphilia, the inappropriate and uncontrollable attraction towards the animal that ends up generating great discomfort to the person.
3. Ailurophilia as a hoarding disorder
This disorder, also known as ” Noah’s syndrome “, is a mental disorder that consists of accumulating a large number of animals, in this case, cats, without providing them with the minimum care. Animals often end up malnourished, sick, and with serious socialization problems. People with this disorder are often unaware of the problem and this makes its treatment more difficult.
Causes of ailurophilia
At present, it is unknown what causes ailurophilia, especially in its pathological version. It has been suggested that multiple factors may influence, as occurs in the appearance of the rest of paraphilias: from genetic factors that predispose people to become obsessed and “hooked” more easily to certain animals and situations; traumatic experiences with these animals in periods of childhood that later emerge in adulthood; or even factors that have to do with vicarious learning (by observation) or classical conditioning, as occurs in phobias.
Some research also suggests that there may be factors related to personality traits and certain underlying diseases, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or some types of schizophrenia. People who live with cats also seem to be more prone to developing ailurophobia and typical symptoms of this paraphilia.
Treatment of ailurophilia
People who simply have a great love for cats (the mildest cases of ailurophilia) do not require any particular treatment, of course. However, in the most serious cases where there is a paraphilic disorder or Noah’s syndrome, it is important that the person receives psychological help.
Normally, the usual thing is to perform cognitive-behavioral therapy, which may or may not be combined with medication (generally, anxiolytics and/or antidepressants), depending on the severity and intensity of the symptoms. The goal of psychological treatment is to help the person reduce their obsession with cats and regain control over their behavior so that they can return to leading a life as autonomous and functional as possible.
This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.