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Ailurophobia (/ˌlʊərəˈfbiə/)[1] is the persistent and excessive fear of cats.[2] Like other specific phobias, the exact cause of ailurophobia is unknown, and potential treatment generally involves therapy.[3][4] The name comes from the Greek words αἴλουρος (ailouros), 'cat', and φόβος (phóbos), 'fear'. Other names for ailurophobia include: felinophobia,[5] elurophobia,[5] gatophobia,[4] and cat phobia.[5] A person with this phobia is known as an ailurophobe.[6]


Ailurophobia is relatively uncommon compared to other animal phobias, such as ophidiophobia or arachnophobia.[4] Ailurophobes may experience panic and fear when thinking about cats, imagining an encounter with a cat, inadvertently making physical contact with a cat, or seeing depictions of cats in media. The fear can also prevent the ailurophobe from doing certain activities, like visiting friends' houses, for fear of encountering a cat.[7] They may experience extreme anxiety and fear when hearing meowing, hissing, or other sounds that the ailurophobe associates with cats.[4] In one case, it was reported that a patient with ailurophobia was unable to touch clothing that had a soft, fur-like texture, possibly due to the clothing's similarity to a cat's fur.[8]


Though the exact cause of ailurophobia is unknown, ailurophobes often trace their fear back to early childhood. This is a trend observed in many other specific phobias, especially those involving animals. One theory is that a singular traumatic incident, like being attacked by a cat or witnessing a cat attack someone else, can trigger the development of this phobia. Other theories as to the cause of ailurophobia include exposure to someone else's ailurophobia, or being inundated with troubling information about the danger of cats.[9]

Another explanation could be that humans are somewhat preconditioned to fear felines because the ancestors of big cats preyed upon human ancestors. This may be the origin of leophobia (fear of lions), tigriphobia (fear of tigers), leopardaliphobia (fear of leopards) and acynonixphobia (fear of cheetahs). Fearing these predators is rational because the danger they present; however, fearing domestic cats is irrational, due to their small size.[4][10]


It is widely believed that one of the best treatments for animal phobia is exposure therapy.[4] Exposure therapy is conducted by systematically exposing a patient to stimuli that are increasingly fear-inducing while only progressing when the patient is comfortable with the prior stimulus. For example, one ailurophobic patient underwent exposure therapy for her fear by being exposed to fur-like fabric, pictures of cats, a toy cat, and finally a friendly live kitten, which the patient subsequently adopted; as the kitten grew and remained friendly, the patient was able to be less afraid of full-grown cats.[8] This method is used to help patients with both ailurophobia and cynophobia.[8]

There are no medications designed to treat ailurophobia. D-cycloserine has been linked to facilitating better results in exposure therapy.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of ailurophobia |". Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  2. ^ London, Louis S. (January 1952). "Ailurophobia and ornithophobia: Cat phobia and bird phobia". The Psychiatric Quarterly. 26 (1–4): 365–371. doi:10.1007/BF01568473. PMID 14949213. S2CID 30238029.
  3. ^ Barnhill, John W. (April 2020). "Specific Phobic Disorders". Merck Manuals – Professional Version. Archived from the original on 28 April 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Milosevic, Irena; McCabe, Randi E. (2015). Phobias: The psychology of irrational fear. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9781610695756. OCLC 895030322..
  5. ^ a b c Szasz, Thomas (1993). A lexicon of lunacy: Metaphoric malady, moral responsibility, and psychiatry. Routledge. p. 68. ISBN 9781560000655.
  6. ^ "Recognizing Ailurophobia Symptoms". Health Daily Advice. 11 September 2023. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  7. ^ Antony, Martin M.; McCabe, Randi E. (2005). Overcoming animal & insect phobias : how to conquer fear of dogs, snakes, rodents, bees, spiders & more. Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications. ISBN 9781608826803. OCLC 785781539.
  8. ^ a b c Freeman, H. L.; Kendrick, D. C. (August 1960). "A case of cat phobia: Treatment by a method derived from experimental psychology". The BMJ. 2 (5197): 497–502. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.5197.497. PMC 2097085. PMID 13824737.
  9. ^ Wolraich, Mark, ed. (2008). "Internalizing Conditions". Developmental-behavioral pediatrics: Evidence and practice. Philadelphia: Mosby/Elsevier. pp. 627–688. doi:10.1016/B978-0-323-04025-9.50021-0. ISBN 9780323070706. OCLC 324995635.
  10. ^ Piegl, Linda; Bothma, Bianca (20 December 2011). "Dinofelis – hominid hunter or misunderstood feline?".
  11. ^ Mataix-Cols, David; Fernández de la Cruz, Lorena; Monzani, Benedetta; Rosenfield, David; Andersson, Erik; Pérez-Vigil, Ana; Frumento, Paolo; de Kleine, Rianne A.; Difede, JoAnn; Dunlop, Boadie W.; Farrell, Lara J. (May 2017). "D-Cycloserine Augmentation of Exposure-Based Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorders". JAMA Psychiatry. 74 (5): 501–510. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.3955. hdl:2144/26601. ISSN 2168-622X. PMID 28122091. S2CID 205144078.

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