Fear of Cats: Ailurophobia Symptoms, Causes and Cures

July 27, 2009


By Julia Williams

It’s been said that when it comes to cats, people either love them or hate them. But there is actually a third feeling many people have for felines: they fear them. The clinical name for Fear of Cats is Ailurophobia. Although it’s difficult for most cat lovers to understand why anyone would be afraid of cats, Ailurophobia is very real, and can be a genuine problem for people who suffer from it.

A phobia is defined as an extreme, irrational and persistent fear of a particular object, activity or situation. Phobias are considered to be a type of anxiety disorder, wherein exposure to the feared stimulus can cause sweating, shaking, heart palpitations, loss of breath, dry mouth, the inability to think or speak clearly, and even a full blown panic attack. Ailurophobia then, is not simply a strong dislike of cats; it’s an intense feeling of fear at the sight of one – even if it’s just on TV.

Sometimes, just the thought of coming into contact with a cat is enough to get an Ailurophobics heart racing. They may understand intellectually that a cat poses no real danger to them, but it doesn’t change their involuntary reaction. Ailurophobics may fear physical contact with a cat, such as bites and scratches, or they might fear the perceived supernatural nature of cats. Ailurophobics often associate cats with black magic, witchcraft, sadism and evil–especially black cats, thanks to Halloween legends, superstitions and countless literary works.

What Causes Ailurophobia?

Like all fears and phobias, Ailurophobia is a protective mechanism created by the unconscious mind. Quite often, the phobic individual can’t even tell you exactly what they fear about cats, or where their fear might have originated. Sometimes all they know is that they’ve been afraid of cats for as long as they can remember.

They might have had a frightening experience with a cat as a baby or young child, but have forgotten it. Toddlers often aren’t taught how to properly pick up cats and may also prod, poke or pet them roughly. This could result in children getting scratched, bitten, and emotionally traumatized. Ailurophobia could also be caused by seeing someone else have a negative experience with a cat. Further, parents can sometimes transfer their own fear of cats on to their children.

Treatments for Ailurophobia

With professional help, the fear of cats can usually be overcome. Of course, for any phobia treatment plan to succeed, the person must first have a desire to overcome the fear. Ailurophobics often avoid seeking treatment because they’re embarrassed about fearing an animal that is generally regarded as cute, cuddly and harmless. It doesn’t help matters if they get teased after confessing their fear of cats to people who don’t understand phobias.

There are many different treatments for Ailurophobia. Like other phobias, Ailurophobia responds well to cognitive-behavior therapy (a form of psychotherapy which stipulates that the way we think about things affects how we feel emotionally). Cognitive therapy focuses on problem solving and present thinking rather than on past experiences, and often includes a desensitization component.

The Ailurophobic individual is taught to use relaxation and visualization techniques when experiencing anxiety about cats. Gradual exposure to cats is introduced in a systematic, structured way while the person concentrates on remaining calm. This might include looking at photos of cats, watching videos about cats, seeing a cat through a window, and eventually, being in the same room with a cat or kitten.

Hypnotherapy is another form of treatment for Ailurophobia. Hypnotherapy helps to reprogram the subconscious thoughts that may be linked to the phobia. When the subconscious is reprogrammed, the phobia symptoms are often minimized.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is the study of how individuals create their reality. From the NLP viewpoint, phobias are the result of faulty “programs” that a person has created. With NLP, these programs are revealed and “re-programmed” so that the phobia is minimized or eliminated. Energy Psychology is similar to acupuncture, except that no needles are used. Energy Psychology is emerging as a safe and effective and way to change phobic behaviors and thought patterns.

I am eternally grateful that I don’t have a fear of cats. After writing this, I’m ready to engage in some serious snuggling with my three feline friends, Annabelle, Rocky and Mickey.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Comments

  1. Bob says:

    Thx for making the article! I used it for my school work.

  2. jacqueline simmons says:

    I have spent most of my life being afraid of cats. I first noticed it at the age of 5 and 45 years later things are still the same. Most people don’t believe it’s real so they laugh at you and try to convince you otherwise. 2 years ago a cat came up through the vents of my floor into my bedroom. I thought I was going to die period when we call nine-one-one to figure out who to call to help get the cat out of the house they were more worried about the way I sound in the background and wanted to send medical attention out to me. I knew that I was going to be all right once I got myself together it took about 30 minutes for me to pull it back together. It left me so paranoid I to put cinder blocks over all the vents and within two months I moved out of the house which I was renting. I decided to see a therapist and she said that all she needed to do was bring her cat into the office and I told her that I was not ready for that but I really wanted to say is you crazy! I can’t look at them on TV or in magazines so how do she think bringing her cat into the office is going to help me? I have no desire getting to know a cat wanting to touch a cat. I know that I will and have accepted that I will die with this phobia. It’s good to know that I’m not alone anymore.

  3. Siwe says:

    And there I was thinking I’m the only with such a phobia. I didn’t want to see it as a phobia per say but it is. I’m stuck in my flat today because there was a cat outside the door when I opened to go out. I’m crying and shaking. It belongs to the landlord, who stays downstairs and is currently at work. I am looking for another flat mainly because of the cats, I thought I would be brave but it shatters me completely. I need some help hey. And most of my colleagues have cats and whenever they host dinner parties, I cannot go because of the cats.

  4. PALESA says:

    I ALSO DO NOT KNOW WHERE MY PHOBIA ORIGINATED FROM AND CLEARLY DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT, I TRY BY ALL MEANS TO AVOID PLACES WHERE CATS FREQUENT AND THIS MEANS I ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ON HIGH ALERT. I WAS RECENTLY OFFERED A JOB AND TO MY SURPRISE THERE IS A LADY IN THAT OFFICE THAT TAKES CARE OF CATS IN THE COMPANY AND IN ALL MY LIFE I HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MANY CATS IN ONE PLACE 🙁 I REALLY WANTED THE JOB BUT NOW I CANT TAKE IT BECAUSE OF THIS UNCALLED FOR FEAR OF MINE. PLEASE HELP

  5. Jodie says:

    I dont know where my phobia of cats come from if i see one it litterally scares me, if i’m getting out of a car and see one i physically cant get out until some scares it away or reasures me that the cat is gone, the thought of going to someones house if they have cats makes me not want to go, i really need help its ruining my life i wont visit some countries just incase of stray cats. Can someone help me please

    1. Debbie says:

      OMG I am exactly the same. We have been going to the Caribbean for a winter holiday for a few years now and all of a sudden there are stray cats running around and in the restaurants at all the resorts. I hate it!

  6. Charlie Sommers says:

    I can easily believe that some have ailurophobia, Today a nurse from our healthcare network stopped by to check on my wife and I. She saw one of our cats stretched out on the sofa and seem perturbed by its presence. She explained that she was allergic to cats but we assured her the cat would stay where it was. The cat had a mind of its own and decided to stroll over to the table where the nurse was doing her paperwork, she jumped to her feet and quickly got her chair between her and the cat. I thought, by the look in her eyes, that she was actually afraid of the cat which my wife quickly captured and exiled to the garage.

    I saw the same behavior in my two older sisters who had an irrational fear of birds. I used to take advantage of their phobia as a child and chase them around with a chicken feather delighting in their screams. That was childish behavior on my part but after all, I was a child.