Ailurophobia (Fear Of Cats)

Ailurophobia is an irrational fear of cats where the person cannot even stand the idea of being around a cat for any length of time or where the sight of one can create panic.


Ailurophobia is a persistent, irrational fear of cats. Also known as Gatophobia, from the Greek word ailouros, this fear may not be as common as a fear of dogs or other animals, but, nevertheless, this phobia can have an overpowering effect on a person’s daily activities, making it difficult to visit family, friends or acquaintances that have cats.

Similar to all phobias, Ailurophobia transpires in the unconscious psyche and may stem from negative childhood experiences where cats may have shown unpleasant behavior such as hissing or scratching a person. Cats do not pose a danger most of the time, but that does not signify, therefore, to an individual with this thought process, that the cat will not cause them harm.

Certain stimulation may occur with this particular phobia that might trigger a reaction at any time. Ordinarily, an adult may understand that the fear is unfounded, but when faced with the prospect of being in the situation, it may bring on anxiety or a panic attack. Whether or not it is a male or female cat, declawed or not, in spite of the circumstances, the fear overwhelms the person due to the experience they may have had with any cat.

Often, the person does not know why they fear cats or when this dislike of cats began. Although this fear of cats may often commence in childhood, without treatment, it may develop further into an uncontrolled phobia. The person should consider having therapy as early as possible to take control of the situation. Moreover, replacing negative thoughts about cats with positive statements will help the person start the process of eliminating the anxiety they feel when in the company of cats.

What are the symptoms of Ailurophobia?

A number of common symptoms that suggest Ailurophobia in both adults and children are:

  • Abdominal issues
  • Anxious at the prospect that a cat might be near
  • Avoiding areas where cats are found, i.e. a person’s home
  • Carrying pepper spray and/or cat food as a precaution for fear of being attacked
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fainting
  • Fear and anxiety of cats triggered by photos or thoughts
  • Getting extremely upset when seeing a cat
  • Heavy breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Immediately leaving the environment where the cat happens to stay
  • Loss of control
  • Nausea
  • Needing another person to escort them when leaving the house due to fear of cat encounters
  • Numbness
  • Panic attacks
  • Pains in the chest
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Thoughts of dying
  • Trying to fend off a cat
  • Unable to speak or reason clearly

What are the causes of Ailurophobia?

There are no specific tests to diagnose Ailurophobia, but a number of causes can produce this phobia in a person:

  • A traumatic event, where the person has encountered a cat that has either bitten or scratched them at a certain point in their life
  • Observing a friend or family member being attacked by a cat. This may also include seeing an attack in a film or television series
  • Being brought up to fear cats based on parental or caregiver’s worries or beliefs
  • Supernatural and superstitious viewpoints associated with cats can lead the person to think that cats are evil, sadistic or sneaky. Black cats are frequently symbolized as an example of bad luck in folk tales or pertain to witchcraft
  • Religious ideology in various cultures where the harming or killing of cats is either valued or detested

How is Ailurophobia treated?

Counseling, psychotherapy sessions and possibly hypnotherapy are usually necessary in the treatment of Ailurophobia. The use of visualization as well as relaxation techniques may take place to reset the person’s state of mind and carefully reduce their fear. A therapist may aid the person in forming a conclusion about how this phobia came about and control the fear with steps on how to conquer this impending dread of cats.

With guided action from a therapist, a person can have a slow introduction to cats starting out by means of looking at photos, videos and movies of cats. Going forward, the person may obtain materials within their session that give the appearance of being with a cat or using a toy cat and, eventually, holding a real cat once the fear is manageable. Consequently, these steps should always occur in a comfortable, controlled environment where the person feels the support of not only their therapist but friends and family as well.

In extreme cases of an individual having panic attacks while in the presence of cats, anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety medications might help to calm the person during these anxious occurrences and would be looked upon as a temporary measure.

Prevention of Ailurophobia

Once a person comprehends that Ailurophobia may begin to develop in their life, they should obtain help from a medical professional as soon as possible. Examining the cause of how and why the fear of cats progressed to this stage will be the key to diminishing the fear. Finding ways to steer clear of circumstances that might lead to a panic attack or other stressful situations will help to control the phobia.

The best way to prevent Ailurophobia is to start with photos of cats, and from the person’s reaction to these photos, this can determine what anxiety level is generated. As the person looks at the picture, remaining calm is essential while continuing with this process every day until anxiety levels have subsided. Increasing your exposure to these cat photos on a regular basis is the source to help you desensitize from all cats.

Prepare yourself in the course of seeing these photos which will then lead to an actual physical contact with a cat. Watching positive videos or movies that show a cat in a less frightening behavior might help as well. When the time comes to make contact with a cat, calling a friend who has a cat, may ease anxiety levels as you explain your fears and the desire to eliminate this phobia. Ask your friend or family member if their cat is friendly and arrange a time to meet their cat.

At the time you plan to finally meet the cat, watch it from a distance that is comfortable for you and when you are ready, sit near the cat, always keeping in mind your comfort point. If your friend has the cat on their lap, and the time is right, pet the cat for a few minutes based on their owner’s description of what the cat likes and will not like. Over time, the more at ease the person becomes in the presence of a cat, the possibility of holding the cat and placing it on their lap may occur.

If the self-help process does not lead to a satisfactory outcome for the individual after a particular length of time, reaching out for support from a mental health professional may be the answer. The person must be open to the idea of making changes in order to understand the uniqueness of this phobia. Getting beyond the sensation of fear is of the utmost importance.