What is ailurophobia? 

Ailurophobia is the fear of cats. It is a relatively common phobia, although there is no definite cause for it. Some people may be afraid of cats because they are predators, and others may be afraid of them because they are associated with witchcraft or bad luck. Whatever the reason, people who suffer from ailurophobia will usually go to great lengths to avoid contact with cats. 

What are other names for ailurophobia?

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

  1. Aelurophobia
  2. Elurophobia
  3. Felinophobia
  4. Galeophobia
  5. 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.

Causes of Ailurophobia

The exact cause of phobias in unclear. In the case of ailurophobia, being attacked by a cat at a young age or witnessing someone else be attacked can play a role. Genetic and environmental factors may also play a part.

  • Specific phobias, especially animal phobias, often develop in childhood. Maybe you have had a phobia of cats for as long as you can remember, but you don’t recall a triggering event from your childhood.
  • It’s also possible to develop a phobia without ever having a negative experience related to what you fear.

What does a person with ailurophobia fear?

Someone with ailurophobia may be afraid of:

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

Further causes of ailurophobia 

  • Ailurophobia is a fear of cats. While the specific cause of ailurophobia is unknown, there are several possible explanations. Some experts believe that the root of the fear may be an evolutionary response; cats have been known to kill small animals, so it’s possible that humans may have developed a fear of them as a survival tactic. 
  • Another explanation is that cats are often seen as aloof and unapproachable, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and intimidation. 
  • Additionally, some people may be afraid of cats because they are susceptible to diseases carried by them, such as rabies. 
  • Whatever the cause, ailurophobia can be debilitating for those who suffer from it and can significantly reduce their quality of life. 

Possible causes of ailurophobia

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Family history: Your risk of ailurophobia increases if you have a close relative or parent with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder.
  4. 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:

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

What are cat haters called?

The name comes from the Greek words αἴλουρος (ailouros), ‘cat’ and φόβος (phóbos), ‘fear’. Other names for ailurophobia include: felinophobia, elurophobia, gatophobia, and cat phobia. A person with this phobia is known as an ailurophobe.

Who is at risk for ailurophobia?

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

  1. Another phobia
  2. Anxiety disorder
  3. Panic disorder
  4. Substance use disorder

What other phobias are associated with ailurophobia?

Other phobias linked to ailurophobia include:

  1. Agrizoophobia, fear of wild animals
  2. Zoophobia, fear of animals

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:

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

Physical symptoms of ailurophobia include:

  1. Dizziness
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Intense sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  4. Nausea or vomiting
  5. Panic attacks
  6. Rapid breathing and heart rate
  7. Strong feeling of terror
  8. Tense muscles, trembling or shaking

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.

  1. You may have a specific phobic disorder if your fear of cats
  2. Occurs when you think about or see cats
  3. Leads you to skip situations such as going outside or to a friend’s house
  4. Results in quick action, such as running away, if you see a cat
  5. Causes you to miss out on social events
  6. Affects your ability to enjoy life
  7. Triggers symptoms of anxiety or fear that don’t match the actual danger
  8. Lasts at least six months

Effects of ailurophobia 

Ailurophobia is a fear of cats. It is one of the most common animal phobias. People with ailurophobia may feel anxious or scared when around cats, even if they are not harmed by them. The fear may be so strong that it interferes with daily life. Symptoms can include sweating, rapid heart rate, and feeling like you can’t breathe. There is no known cure for ailurophobia, but therapy can help people manage their fear. 

What are ailurophobia treatments?

Exposure therapy 

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:

  1. Learn breathing and relaxation techniques to use before and during an exposure.
  2. View pictures or videos of cats.
  3. Practice holding a toy cat.
  4. Gradually progress to being near a cat in a carrier.
  5. 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 behavioural 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.


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.


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.

  1. Beta-blockers. Beta-blockers help with physical symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate and dizziness. They are generally taken before going into a situation that triggers physical symptoms.
  2. Benzodiazepines. These are sedatives that also help decrease anxiety symptoms. While they can be helpful, they also have a high risk of addiction. Your doctor will generally only prescribe these for occasional or short-term use.
  3. D-cycloserine (DCS). This is a drug that may help enhance the benefits of exposure therapy. 

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.

What to do if you have Ailurophobia

Ailurophobia is the fear of cats. It is one of the most common phobias and it is said that almost one quarter of the population have some fear of cats. If you have ailurophobia, you may feel anxious or panicky when around cats, or when you think about them. You may also try to avoid them at all costs. While there is no one-size-fits-all cure for ailurophobia, there are a number of things you can do to help manage your fear and reduce your anxiety. 

Tips for overcoming Ailurophobia

Ailurophobia is the fear of cats. It is the third most common phobia, after anxiety and social phobia. The fear may be caused by anything from seeing a cat in the wild as a child, to being scratched by one as an adult. There is no cure for ailurophobia, but there are treatments available that can help people control their symptoms.

How do you get rid of ailurophobia?

Exposure therapy is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for phobias. In this type of therapy, you’ll work with a therapist to slowly expose yourself to what you fear. To address ailurophobia, you might begin by looking at pictures of cats.

Tips to overcome the fear of cats

The treatment of this phobia is no different than that of other phobias, so we recommend that you go to a professional who can help you and guide you through this process.

  • A therapist is perfect to help the person understand why they have developed this phobia and to be able to provide them with a series of tools that support overcoming it.
  • It is important that we ask ourselves some questions to work with our emotions. Think about when the phobia appeared and what tensions or feelings you suffer when you approach a cat.
  • In addition, there are some tips that can help and support therapy.
  • Find out well about cats: many times, misinformation or ignorance can cause that particular fear. Something you can do to feel better is to expand your knowledge about felines, about their behavior and how we should deal with them.
  • Find out more about them in a safe environment: if you want to be a little closer to them to see how you feel, we recommend doing it in a safe environment and preferably outdoors. 


  • Thus, in case you get overwhelmed, you will not be in a closed place with the animal. It is important that you do it when you feel that you are ready and focused. Try to take control of your nerves and clear your mind.
  • In case the fear is suffered by children, we recommend that you make them come into contact with the animal little by little. You can start by reading children’s stories starring cats (The Aristocats, for example) or watching movies or documentaries about cats as a family.
  • In conclusion, the more reinforcement and positive experiences you have with cats, the easier it will be for you to overcome your fears of them. Although these types of situations take time, we encourage you because with patience, help and enthusiasm, any fear can be overcome.

When should you call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you have:

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

What questions should you ask your doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  1. How long will I need therapy?
  2. What is causing this phobia?
  3. What is the most effective treatment for me?


Animal phobias are among the most common phobias. If you have a fear of cats that’s holding you back from doing certain activities or having a negative effect on your life, therapy can help.


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