Understanding Ailurophobia, or Fear of Cats
What is ailurophobia?
Ailurophobia describes an intense fear of cats that’s strong enough to cause panic and anxiety when around or thinking about cats. This specific phobia is also known as elurophobia, Gallophobia, and felinophobia.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of ailurophobia is extreme fear when seeing or hearing a cat. Even looking at cartoons or photos of cats could trigger symptoms.
- pain or tightness in the chest
- increased sweating or heartbeat
- trouble breathing normally
- feelings of agitation, dizziness, or nausea
- trembling and shaking
- upset stomach, especially when thinking about a future event where a cat will be present
These symptoms can affect your routine behaviors. For example, you might stop visiting a friend who has cats or move to a new building that doesn’t allow pets. Or, you might find yourself avoiding co-workers who talk about their pet cats.
Finally, if you have a phobia of any kind, you may be aware that your fears are irrational, or unlikely to cause harm. This awareness often causes additional distress and feelings of shame, which can make it difficult to reach out for help.
What causes it?
The exact cause of phobias is 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.
How is it diagnosed?
If you think you might have a phobia of cats, consider seeing a mental health professional to get a diagnosis. Your primary healthcare provider can refer you to one who has experience diagnosing phobias.
In general, a phobia is diagnosed when the anxiety or fear impacts your daily life or harms your quality of life.
You may be diagnosed with ailurophobia if:
- the sight or thought of cats causes physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety
- you go out of your way to avoid cats
- you spend more time worrying about possible encounters with cats than you’d like
- you’ve experienced these symptoms for six months or longer