Ailurophobia: Characteristics, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

It is the uncontrollable, abnormal, persistent, and unjustified fear that an individual has of cats.

Animal phobias are widespread, and many individuals tend to fear multiple animals.

For people with ailurophobia, their fear or fear of cats can have a significant impact on their lives and daily activities, as they will encounter the stimulant of their phobia wherever they go, even if they do everything possible to avoid it.

Characteristics of ailurophobia

Other names that ailurophobia receives are gatofobia, a word of etymology in Spanish, and galleophobia.

Ailurophobia is a type of animal phobia and consists of a psychological disorder whose main manifestations are related to anxiety disorders.

People with ailurophobia experience adverse feelings when exposed to cats.

For this reason, it is common for subjects with this disorder to avoid contact with these animals systematically.


Ailurophobia is a mildly disabling disorder, but suffering from this condition significantly reduces the individual’s quality of life. However, not all people have the same taste for these animals.

Ailurophobia is not a rare disorder today, even though cats are perceived as peaceful animals by society.

This disorder is well defined, and its treatments are usually very effective in overcoming the phobia of cats.

There may be people who enjoy the company of cats and people who fear it.


Possible causes that can lead to fear of cats include:

  • The standard trigger for causing ailurophobia in individuals could be observing fear reactions from other people when they are in the presence of cats.
  • It is possible that a child could develop this phobia, behaving fearful or cautious towards cats, seeing that their parents or any older adult, even when observing cartoon characters on a television show, show the same fear.
  • Women have acquired ailurophobia from watching television shows or movies where typically, female characters exhibit or show fear by jumping on a chair or running away to avoid cats.
  • Cats are predatory by nature. They have often been associated with witchcraft practices, with acts of evil by popular beliefs. It is even normal for domesticated cats to growl or even scratch.
  • In many cultures, such as ancient Egyptians, where cats were worshiped, mummified, or preserved, these acts can provoke fear of cats, especially in the minds of some individuals who are already going through a crisis or who, for nature, are nervous or overly anxious.

Symptoms of ailurophobia or fear of cats

The typical symptoms of this disorder are physical. The person affected by this phobia will generally experience a series of alterations in the entire functioning of the body when exposed to the presence of a cat.

These alterations are the product of the increased activity of the autonomic nervous system that generates the phobic fear of cats and is essentially characterized by:

  • It increased heart rate.
  • It increased respiratory rate.
  • Excessive sweating
  • I have increased muscle tension.
  • Pupil dilation.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Nausea, dizziness, or vomiting.
  • Feelings of unreality

The thoughts that accompany ailurophobia can have different modalities and contents.

Each person with this disorder may have different thoughts about cats.

But, the cognitive symptoms that occur with ailurophobia are characterized by two main elements:

  1. They present irrational thoughts.
  2. They attribute hazardous properties to cats.


When the diagnosis of ailurophobia is made, the patient must show two primary characteristics.

First of all, as the definition of the phobia itself indicates, the individual must be afraid of cats.

Second, this fear experienced by the individual must have the characteristic of being phobic. That is why not all anxious feelings towards cats can be diagnosed as ailurophobia.

This fear, anxiety, or avoidance typically causes significant distress or impairment in the individual’s social, occupational, or other vital performance areas.

In an attempt to avoid cats, the individual will try to do everything possible to prevent a cat, including putting himself at risk by crossing the street quickly, avoiding documentary shows about nature and animals, or watching television channels where there is the possibility of seeing a cat.

He will reject invitations to houses where there is a cat as a pet.

Other avoidance reactions can be subtle, such as carrying food snacks to throw the cat out of the way or closing your eyes during a cat-like movie scene.

Treatments for ailurophobia

The current first-line treatment to cure ailurophobia is cognitive-behavioral therapy.

This type of therapy has high levels of efficacy in the intervention of phobic fears and is currently a more effective and appropriate therapeutic tool than drugs.

This cognitive behavioral treatment is based mainly on the therapeutic element of exposure.

Carrying out a gradual and controlled exposure to cats allows the subject to get used to their phobic elements and gradually overcome their response to fear and anxiety.

This is done in steps, such as:

  1. Observe the cat from afar.
  2. Look at pictures of cats.
  3. Repeat his name.
  4. Initiate more direct contact with cats.

It would help if you also relearned how to think differently about cats.

There are many methods; negative thoughts and beliefs must be identified and replaced with more realistic ones.