Confession: My Animal Phobia

Did you know that 20% of Americans suffer from some type of phobia?  A phobia is defined as “is an irrational, intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people”.  (I personally think the percentages have to higher).  There are hundreds of different types of phobias including everything from Denrophobia (a fear of trees) to chorophobia (fear of dancing- pretty sure I suffer from this one).  The list of phobias is exhaustive and can be seen at http://phobialist.com/.

So what is my phobia?  Most of you know that I am scared of animals.  There are several reasons for this fear. The main reason is I didn’t grow up with them.  My sister Megan and brother Ben are completely allergic to all animals with fir or feathers.  This meant that not only did I not live with animals, I didn’t spend much time with them.  Even a trip to the zoo was ripe with peril for my family.  One time we visited my uncle Mark’s ranch in Northern California and my brother’s eye swelled up to the size of a tennis ball and he had to be rushed to the hospital.

I did have friends who had animals.  Most notably my friend Meredith who had 3 champion samoyeds and at least one cat.  In fact, the first time I went to her house I let the dogs out and we had to chase them through the mud.  I felt like such an idiot but I really had no experience with animals.  Eventually I became comfortable with her dogs but it took years.  When we had sleepovers the dogs or cats would occasionally jump on me in the middle of the night sending me into a complete fright.  After all, I was not used to large mammals jumping on me in the night!

After visiting Meredith or other friends with dogs I remember being worried that I was going to get my siblings sick.  My sister Megan would break out in horrible hives all over her face in the presence of animal dander (among other things) and I know I felt responsible for her outbreaks on more than one instance.  This was probably not the case but it created a compulsion to stay away from animals.

Added to that fear was that I have always been weird about my personal space.  I’m not a particularly lovey-dovey person (my first word was stop if that tells you anything).  One thing about animals is they are all about violating your personal space.  They jump, lick, bite, chirp, and land all over your body.  Most people find such gestures cuddly and sweet.  For some reason, I’ve always disliked it and felt fearful about it.  In my head I know that most of the animals I come in contact with will not hurt me but I still feel that resistance when I’m around them.

Some of you might argue that I have not spent enough time around animals.  While this may be partially true, I don’t know if this fear could be handled so simply.  When I was on my mission I met every dog, cat and bird in Indiana.  We used to joke that every Hoosier loves their dogs and cigarettes.

I prayed a lot and somehow I was able to manage but it was hard.  Despite nearly daily interaction with animals, it never got easier or less anxious to be around them.  The one time when I drew the line and refused to visit a family because of an animal was in my first area.  This family had 2 st. Bernard dogs.  It was like living with 2 horses in the house!  I mustered up my courage and went in to visit but I noticed their little girl had a large gash on her forehead.

“How’d she get that gash?”  I asked.

“Oh the dog was just playing” the woman responded!

My eyes grew big and after our visit I made sure we never went back to that house.  Especially at the beginning of my mission I could only take so much.

Another experience with animals on my mission happened in Angola.  We were visiting a less active family when the girls decided it would be funny to throw their bird in my face.  They didn’t know about my phobia or I assure you they would not have behaved so foolishly.  Seeing all the wings and beaks flying towards my face I freaked out.  At first they laughed and then when I was hyperventilating they realized their mistake.

Those are 2 rare exceptions.  For the most part I tried to be loving and kind to people’s pets despite my insecurities.  However, those insecurities never went away.  I think I will always have them.  The oddest part of my phobia is it covers all animals not just big mean dogs.  I particularly don’t like anything rodent-like such as ferrets, rats, gerbils or guinea pigs.  Yuck!  I also don’t like snakes, toads, or anything that slithers/crawls.  Most people at least like birds but not me.  I don’t like their smell and hate it when they land on my shoulder.  I feel insecure and don’t know what they are going to do next.  Plus, it freaks me out when they fly in my face.

Some people are very critical of me for my animal phobia.  It is like I detest babies or something.   There are people who think I am a bad person because I don’t like animals.  They are entitled to their opinion, but I would argue that I don’t want cruel things to happen to animals.  I just don’t want them around me.  In fact, when I see a dog or cat in a hot car or in pain I feel for the creature.  I have never liked zoos partly because I’m not into large animals but also because I think it is cruel to cage them for no reason but our viewing pleasure. I would do whatever I could to protect or make sure animals had good kind homes.  I am just not that home. Especially being single I see the appeal of the companionship of a pet, but I know an animal would not get the love it needs from me.

I have often joked that having no animals will be part of my “pre-nup”.  (No, I don’t plan on having a pre-nup.  It’s just a joke).  I know it is silly to place restrictions on my future life but it is an issue that will have to be discussed.  Forcing me to live with an animal would be the equivalent of forcing a person with a fear of heights to live on the 40th floor.  It would be cruel to both myself and the animal.

I suppose I can cross that bridge when I come to it.  In the meantime, I am enjoying my animal-less life and allowing all you animal lovers to shoulder that burden.

So now you all know probably the weirdest thing about me.  Thoughts?

Did I mention I also get nauseous in hospitals/nursing homes and faint at the sight of blood? That’s for another entry!  Do any of you have phobias?  For instance, I know a lot of people have a fear of public speaking?

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14 thoughts on “Confession: My Animal Phobia

  1. Snakes! That’s mine. It’s totally irrational…I am more afraid of smaller ones than big ones like boa constrictors b/c I feel like the big ones are fat and slow so I have a better chance at out running them…
    Kimberly Durkin

  2. I am not an animal fan either. I think it is ridiculous how some people baby their animals so much that they would help them more the than humans.

    Anyway, I hate birds! No its not a phobia because it is not an irrational fear. I have been attacked by all kinds of birds repeatedly. Seagulls, ducks, geese, chickens, foreign birds at the Wild Animal Park, wild birds at the zoo, Crows (Once I was in the car and I was stopped at a signal light. A HUGE crow landed on my side view mirror and tried to get a me through the open window. Freaked me out!) Some people have said that its my hair. It would make a great nest. Still don’t know how to take that…

    I think my “phobia” helped me weed out the jerks while I was single. When guys would find out about my fear they wanted to “help me.” One locked me in a chicken coop and another took me to see Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds on a date. That didn’t help. Derek took me into an aviary at the Wild Animal Park and sure enough the birds started coming after me. Derek beat them all back and then escorted me out. He was my hero and I knew that I should marry him!

    I think it is funny that you should have this post. This past weekend we were visiting Derek’s childhood best friend and his wife. Derek doesn’t really like little dogs, so he pushed theirs out of the way with his foot and it totally set off the other couple…opps! I guess he “kicked” (I know he just pushes with his foot because Derek’s not going to start beating animals) their other dog years ago and Amber is still traumatized and talking about it.

  3. Thanks Emily. It’s nice to know I’m not a complete weirdo!
    I can’t believe those people were upset with Derek. Maybe they should keep their dog from crawling up their guests legs! People are some times out of control with their animals. I try to be sympathetic but it s hard.
    Thanks for sharing your dating story. I can imagine that falling in love means accepting all parts of your partner- even their fears- irrational as they may be. You guys are such a great couple!

  4. Just stumbled back upon this post and had to comment. I think you are totally justified in your animal phobia considering your family situation and upbringing. Actually, though, I don’t think you should have to “justify” it at all. I don’t have nearly as good of reasons as you and I really don’t like animals either. I also get annoyed when people give me problems about it, as if they’re offended that I’m not comfortable with their dogs jumping up on me or trying to sniff me you know where! My best friends back in high school tried to “cure” me as well, or maybe they were just having fun…but I really didn’t appreciate being tricked into putting my hand into a box with a snake in it, or forced to touch frogs.

    I get very uncomfortable when I have to stay at my in-laws house becuase of all of their pets. Pets are so filthy and there is always cat liter or birdseed on the floor and around the beds. It’s gross! Not to mention all of the cat and dog hair covering every surface, which inevitably ends up covering all of our belongings as well! And, of course, the smell comes home with us and I have to wash EVERYTHING to get rid of it, even if it isn’t otherwise dirty. And their big dogs really scare our little boys too, bounding toward them…sometimes tackling them to the ground! It bugs me that I often get the impression that people think my animal aversion is silly. I, too, respond that I would never wish them cruelty or purposely inflict pain on them…I just don’t want them around me!

    About your prenuptial agreement joke…that is actually a very serious issue to discuss before marriage. My husband grew up with animals and he really loves dogs, but he knew full well going into our marriage that we would NEVER own a dog, or probably any pet for that matter. He decided that was something he could live with, considering how important it was to me. He also understands completely that if anyone in his family ever “gifts” us a dog we WILL be returning it no matter how ungrateful it appears. I will not be tricked into becoming a dog owner. I can’t imagine a ruder gift than an unwanted pet, although I have heard of people actually doing that to be funny (knowing the kids will probably be instantly attached and it will be difficult to say “no” at that point). Anyway, if animals really make you that uncomfortable than I would think a loving spouse would not expect you to bring them into your home. Beyond not liking animals, I already have three rambunctious, messy, expensive kids…why on earth would I want to add more work and expense to my life?

    Sorry for the super long comment, but I just had to concur! Also, I’m glad to find others who share my distaste for animals.

    1. I think you and I may have been twins separated at birth! Most people don’t get my animal problems. I try to be polite but its hard. I’m glad that none of my relatives own animals or it would be harder to visit them. I guess it says something about my family that none of my siblings, grandparents and most of my cousins are animal-less like me. I don’t know if anyone else is scared but you never know.
      Thanks for the comments about your husband. He sounds like such a nice guy. I really admire your relationship and how open and communicative you are. Was there anything that you had to accept at the beginning from him like he accepted your animal phobia? I hope I have such a relationship. I guess I could always send him to my blog and he’ll get an idea of who he is marrying real quick!
      Thanks again for being my blogging friend. Take care fellow animal avoider.

      1. I had to accept my husband’s very weird taste in music. Seriously, it totally bugged me when we were dating, even embarrassed me. But I realized that I loved him and couldn’t change him, and that part of what made him him was his very eclectic (including some downright bizarre stuff) taste in music. I did draw the line with a few particular albums that were disturbing and inappropriate for our home and he finally threw them out. But the innocently weird stuff…it’s still around.

        Oh, and also, he has a few favorite shirts in his closet that I hated from the beginning. I get embarrassed when he wears them because I think they’re silly or immature looking (and now, after a decade, pretty worn as well). Anyway, I could have easily gotten rid of those shirts on any number of occasions throughout the years, and he probably wouldn’t have noticed for months. But out of respect for him I’ve left them there and he still pulls them out and wears them around the house every once in a while. Aren’t I such a good wife (joking!)?

        1. That’s funny about his music. I suppose there is always going to be something embarrassing about the people we love!

  5. Wow i too just stumbled across this by accident, im 35,married with a 7 yr old girl and 5 yr old boy, i absolutly HATE all animals, i always have even as a small child, i think i inherit this trait from my mother. i always find it embarrasing visiting friends and relatives houses with pets as they have to put their pets away, im 6’3 and play rugby haha so i always look a wimp. im more of white lily’s school of thought, im not really that scared they just disgust me, i find them dirty and smelly and i really dont think they are cute at all, everyone who finds out my guilty secret automatically thinks im a cruel horrible person, im lucky that my wife isnt really an animal person anyway so we have no desire to have pets and my poor kids will remain pet free until they leave my home.im so glad im not alone in the world, and at least you ladies understand that because i hate animals im not a bad person, praise the lord.

    1. Thanks for your comment. It is good to know I’m not alone in my phobia. If even a 6’3 rugby player gets scared that makes me feel better.

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