For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an extreme, irrational fear of cats, also called ailurophobia. You could say that all I had to do was to avoid cats, but it wasn’t so easy back home. In Muscat, stray cats roamed the streets like the squirrels at UC Berkeley. One can expect to find a whole family of cats on every street — you could even spot a cat sleeping on the hood of your car. Sometimes these cats even make their way inside apartment buildings. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve screamed in fright upon encountering a cat waiting for me as I exited the elevator. Or when choosing outdoor seating at a restaurant, I’ve learned to be on the lookout for cats that scurry past between my legs. But don’t be fooled by my words: These stray cats are a beloved part of Muscat and live harmoniously with humans. And like the squirrels at UC Berkeley, they’re well-fed too!
Most people are unable to comprehend how I can be afraid of such loving creatures like cats. I’m unable to put my finger on what exactly scares me to death about cats, but it’s a combination of their eerie eyes, sly movement and forever-angry expressions that translates to “I’m going to pounce on you at any second.” If you’re unfortunate enough to be walking next to me as we pass by a cat, expect your hand to be bruised as I grip it with all my might and dig my nails into your arm. My family and friends are well aware of this fear, but it was a great surprise to my peers here at UC Berkeley when I revealed my fear during a game of two truths and a lie. Everyone chose this fear to be my lie, thinking that how could someone possibly be afraid of balls of fur?
In the past, I’ve tried to let go of this fear, but the only progress I’ve made so far is that I’ve managed to stop screaming at the sight of a cat. That’s not to say that I’m not internally panicking. Unfortunately, this fear has resulted in me missing out on fun festivities. For instance, about two weekends ago my friends decided to go to a fancy cat café in San Francisco. Despite their constant invitations, I refused to accompany them owing to my fear. As a result, I couldn’t join in on all the fun.
Today being Global Cat Day, with a number of events worldwide to celebrate our feline friends, I hope that I can one day overcome my fear.
Contact Nandita Radhakrishnan at [email protected].