Cute or Terrifying: Animal Phobias

It may be difficult to understand how anyone could be afraid of a family pet. However, the fear of animals, known as zoophobia, is actually very common.

This distress can be so intense the individual afflicted will arrange their day in order to avoid the panic they feel when they are confronted with their fears.

How do these phobias arise? Doctors believe most of these anxieties develop during childhood between the ages of five and nine as result of a traumatic event.  For example, a child could potentially develop Cynophobia, the fear of dogs, after being bitten by a dog. This anxiety could then carry over into adulthood making day-to-day life difficult especially considering 39% of households in the United State own at least one dog.

Fortunately, just as an individual can develop a phobia they can also take steps to overcome one. Cognitive behavior therapy is a process in which fears are overcome through  changing thought patterns that surrounding the phobia .  CBT has been effective in treating a wide range of anxiety disorders making it a great option for those who suffer from a phobia.

Zoophobia is the term used when referring to a class of specific animal phobias. Most individuals who suffer from zoophobia fear a certain species of animal. The following is a summary of common animal phobias individuals suffer from  and perhaps a few you never considered fearing.

Ornithophobia – If you have seen Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds you probably understand how one could develop a fear of the feathered creatures. Though the chances of getting pecked to death by a flock of birds is slim, ornithophobia is still one of the most common animal phobias.  Going out of the house can be pretty intense for people who suffer from a fear of birds because they are everywhere.

Ailurophobia - While the idea of “Caturday” and looking at photos of kittens online is appealing to some; there are those who find it terrifying. Ailurophobia, the fear of cats has afflicted some very notable historic figures including Alexander the Great, Julius Caeser, and Genghis Khan.

Musophobia – Mice have found themselves in many roles in the lives of humans.  There is the pest,  the cartoon character, the pet, and even pet food. For others it is the cause of intense fright. Musophobia, the fear of mice, can send people fleeing from the house at the sound of the word “mouse.”

Ophidiophobia – Many people fear snakes without ever having seen one in person. How then do people develop ophidiophobia without a traumatic event to trigger it? Scientists believe the fear of snakes is part of pre-human evolution during which primates learned to identify snakes as a source of danger. This survival tactic then evolved to humans.

Ostraconophobia – If you are eating shellfish you are probably not ostraconophobic but check with your dinner date first because they might me.  The sight of shellfish can cause panic attacks in people who are afraid of them.

Mottephobia –   Often a sign that summer is here, the butterfly is not everyone’s favorite insect. The holometabolous creature actually creates the feeling of butterflies in the stomach for some.  Those who suffer from mottephobia find moths to be equally as terrifying.

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay