Ailurophobia is a fear of cats. People with this specific phobia feel anxious when they think about a cat, see a cat or images of a cat, or hear a cat. Many people with cat phobia have had negative experiences with cats. You can overcome a phobia of cats with exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy and other treatments.
People with ailurophobia (eye-lure-o-PHO-bia) have a fear of cats. Someone with ailurophobia may have extreme anxiety or fear when seeing or thinking about cats. They may avoid visiting friends who have cats or stay away from co-workers who talk about their cats. In some cases, people may stop leaving their house to avoid the chance of seeing cats outside.
The word ailurophobia comes from “ailouros,” the Greek word for cat. Phobia means fear.
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Ailurophobia is also known by other names. People may call this phobia:
Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder. They involve excessive fear of an event or situation that won’t necessarily cause harm in reality. Ailurophobia is a specific phobia disorder. A specific phobia occurs when something particular (in this case, cats) leads to a fearful reaction.
Fear of animals is one of the most common phobias, along with fear of heights. About 9% of American adults and almost 20% of teenagers have a specific phobia disorder at some point during their lifetime. These disorders affect about twice as many women as men.
Someone with ailurophobia may be afraid of:
You’re more likely to develop ailurophobia or another specific phobia disorder if you already have:
Other phobias linked to ailurophobia include:
Possible causes of ailurophobia include:
Anything related to cats may bring on ailurophobia. Ailurophobia triggers include seeing or thinking about cats:
Ailurophobia symptoms can range from mild to extreme. The most common symptoms are extreme anxiety when thinking about or seeing a cat.
Emotional symptoms include:
Physical symptoms of ailurophobia include:
If ailurophobia impacts your life, your healthcare provider may suggest that you see a mental health professional like a psychologist. A psychologist may diagnose you after asking about your symptoms.
You may have a specific phobic disorder if your fear of cats:
Exposure therapy is one of the main treatments for ailurophobia. During exposure therapy, a mental health professional introduces you to situations and images that may trigger your symptoms. They gradually help you manage your response. As many as 9 in 10 people with specific phobias see their symptoms improve after getting this type of psychotherapy (talk therapy).
During exposure therapy, you:
Other techniques to overcome ailurophobia include:
Severe ailurophobia can impact your quality of life. You may not want to visit friends at their houses or go for walks outside. Just the thought of running into a cat when you leave your house can cause extreme anxiety. You may want to stop going out at all.
Some people with ailurophobia have panic attacks. These attacks can lead to chest pain or a racing heart rate. Persistent worries about panic attacks can result in a panic disorder. This condition may require long-term use of anti-anxiety medications.
You should call your healthcare provider if you have:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Phobias such as ailurophobia can impact your quality of life. You may avoid watching TV or movies, reduce time spent with friends and family, or not want to leave your house. Healthcare providers can help you overcome your fear of cats. Talk to your provider about treatments such as exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or hypnotherapy. These treatments can help you feel better about being around cats.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/19/2021.
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