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Fears / Phobias
Fears of all sorts abound throughout the animal kingdom. As do attractions. They can be primal, as the cats reaction to the sudden, unexpected hiss of a snake. Shocked by the surprise, and the fear felt within its survival center, the cat recoils and almost simultaneously displays its own aggressive posture which is loaded with signs of fear. A confident cat that is acting aggressively will not hiss and make a point of showing you all his weapons. The one who is scared wants to make a strong display to get out of the situation without potentially getting beat up, and so they make scary sounds and make themselves look much larger by arching their back and puffing up their fur. The effort is to significantly scare the other individual to get that individual to back off or at least create a standoff, that both can eventually retreat from and at the same time save face. Like a snake (an interesting evolution of communication), cats hiss when they are significantly scared, and they may show you their fangs with an open mouth display. In dogs prominent fears include thunderstorms/fireworks, other dogs/people (which can be subcategorized in numerous ways), vacuum cleaners, vets office, discipline. In cats prominent fears include people, other cats, being handled/picked up, sudden noises/movements, birds (usually following an attack on the cat by the bird(s)), the outdoors, car rides, and of course, the vets office. A phobia is simply an intense fear that is significantly disproportionate in intensity relative to the actual threat inherent in the fear- invoking stimulus. Fears/phobias can be very specific to an individual being or object, or location, or set of circumstances... or they can become more generalized to other similar sounds/sights. Most often treated with counter-conditioning/desensitization procedures and/or anti-anxiety medications, fear-related problems are usually pretty easy to treat. Medication can be very useful in providing windows of opportunity through which significant progress can be made with behavior modification programs. If setbacks can be avoided (by controlling for exposures to the fear-inducing stimuli -or- controlling the animals reactivity w/ anxiolytics) through the period when the animal is being put through a well-crafted behavior modification program, then the fearful stimuli can be reintroduced in such a way that the animal is remaining relaxed up through and beyond experiencing the fearful stimuli in its normally presenting form (w/out reacting fearfully). When this is done you have fixed the problem.