Ailurophobia (Fear of Cats)

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.


What is ailurophobia?

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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What are other names for ailurophobia?

Ailurophobia is also known by other names. People may call this phobia:

  • Aelurophobia.
  • Elurophobia.
  • Felinophobia.
  • Galeophobia.
  • Gatophobia.

What is a 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.


How common is ailurophobia?

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.

What does a person with ailurophobia fear?

Someone with ailurophobia may be afraid of:

  • Being attacked or jumped on by a cat.
  • Coming across cats in public places, like outside, or private spaces, like a friend’s house.
  • Finding or touching cat fur.
  • Having evil spells cast on them by a cat.
  • Seeing pictures of cats in books, magazines or online.
  • Watching or hearing cats in TV shows or movies.


Symptoms and Causes

Who is at risk for ailurophobia?

You’re more likely to develop ailurophobia or another specific phobia disorder if you already have:

What other phobias are associated with ailurophobia?

Other phobias linked to ailurophobia include:

  • Agrizoophobia, fear of wild animals.
  • Zoophobia, fear of animals.

What are the causes of ailurophobia?

Possible causes of ailurophobia include:

  • Past traumatic events: People who have had a traumatic experience related to cats may develop ailurophobia. For instance, a cat may have attacked you or someone you know.
  • Negative stories about cats: Some people see cats as carriers of evil. Stories of cats during the Middle Ages and the Salem Witch Trial linked cats to witches and the devil.
  • Family history: Your risk of ailurophobia increases if you have a close relative or parent with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder.
  • Modeling: Seeing a person with ailurophobia or listening to someone talk about their fear of cats can cause you to have the same phobia.

What are ailurophobia triggers?

Anything related to cats may bring on ailurophobia. Ailurophobia triggers include seeing or thinking about cats:

  • In public spaces, such as walking along the street.
  • At someone’s house.
  • In TV shows or movies.

What are ailurophobia symptoms?

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:

  • Excessive thinking about how to avoid cats.
  • Extreme anxiety when you hear cat sounds, such as purring, hissing or meowing.
  • Fear of places where you may see a cat.

Physical symptoms of ailurophobia include:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is ailurophobia diagnosed?

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:

  • Occurs when you think about or see cats.
  • Leads you to skip situations such as going outside or to a friend’s house.
  • Results in quick action, such as running away, if you see a cat.
  • Causes you to miss out on social events.
  • Affects your ability to enjoy life.
  • Triggers symptoms of anxiety or fear that don’t match the actual danger.
  • Lasts at least six months.

Management and Treatment

What are ailurophobia treatments?

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:

  • Learn breathing and relaxation techniques to use before and during an exposure.
  • View pictures or videos of cats.
  • Practice holding a toy cat.
  • Gradually progress to being near a cat in a carrier.
  • Finally, touch a cat while having support from a therapist, family or friends.

What are other ailurophobia solutions?

Other techniques to overcome ailurophobia include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you change how you see and respond to situations and objects that trigger symptoms. Many healthcare providers use CBT along with exposure therapy.
  • Hypnotherapy: Providers use guided relaxation techniques and focused attention to help alter your perception of cats. Providers can also use hypnotherapy to find the underlying cause of your cat anxiety.
  • Medications: Drugs that help with physical symptoms of anxiety, such as beta blockers or antianxiety medications, may reduce ailurophobia symptoms. Providers often prescribe these medications for situations where people may encounter a cat.
  • Yoga and meditation: A consistent yoga practice can help you relax and decrease your stress levels. Meditation can help you focus on your breathing to reduce panic attacks.

What are the complications of ailurophobia?

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.

Living With

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Persistent anxiety that causes problems with daily life or sleeping.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • How long will I need therapy?
  • What is causing this phobia?
  • What is the most effective treatment for me?

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 11/19/2021.

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