What is Zoophobia?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Zoophobia is a fear of animals. This phobia is quite common among young children, and in some people, it persists into adulthood. For patients, this condition can be very debilitating and distressing, since many people make animals a part of their lives, and non-human animals are a common sight around the world. There are a number of treatment approaches which can be used to address people who suffer from this condition.

Even cute kittens can cause fear in those who have zoophobia, which is a fear of animals.
Even cute kittens can cause fear in those who have zoophobia, which is a fear of animals.

In some cases, someone with zoophobia simply fears all animals, great and small alike. Other patients may fear a specific kind of animals; entomophobia, for example, is the fear of insects. There are a number of causes for this disorder to develop, ranging from childhood trauma to the obscure workings of the brain. Understanding the cause is often an important part of therapy.

Simply talking to a therapist about one's zoophobia can explore the cause of the phobia, as well as potential solutions.
Simply talking to a therapist about one's zoophobia can explore the cause of the phobia, as well as potential solutions.

An individual with zoophobia experiences classic symptoms of panic when he or she encounters animals. Nervousness, anxiety, an accelerated heart rate, sweating, and dizziness can all occur, along with symptoms like vomiting. The patient may mentally run through a series of worst case scenarios, or simply experience generalized anxiety around the animal. Patients may also feel socially awkward or uncomfortable because other people do not understand or respect the severity of the phobia.

Treatment can incorporate a number of approaches. Some sort of behavioral therapy is usually strongly recommended. This can include sessions in which a patient simply talks with a therapist about the phobia to explore the cause and potential approaches, or desensitization sessions, in which the patient is exposed to animals or images of animals in small increments to grow more comfortable with them. Therapy animals who have been specifically trained to deal with people in distress may be used for this type of therapy.

People may also take medications to manage zoophobia. This option is usually offered in cases where people suffer such severe fear and anxiety that other types of therapy cannot even be started because the patient is too afraid. Medications will be used to dull the phobic response to animals so that the patient and therapist can work together in sessions and develop a plan for the patient to work on at home to bring the fear under control.

While the thought of being mortally terrified of something like a cuddly bunny or a friendly pony might seem bizarre to people who love animals, zoophobia is a very serious condition. Friends and family members who are afraid of animals should be treated with compassion and support and urged to get psychological help, rather than being dismisseded or made fun of, as this can add to emotional distress and make the phobia worse.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@literally45-- Do you or does anyone else here know if hypnotherapy (hypnosis) can be used to treat this phobia?


@turquoise-- I'm not an expert and I don't have much information on phobias but I imagine that a traumatic incident is the root cause of quite a few zoophobia cases.

My mom doesn't have a fear of all animals, but she has a fear of snakes. She says that when she was young, she had to walk to school by herself and sometimes snakes would come out on the trail she walked on. So that's where her fear comes from.

I've also heard of several celebrities who have fear of dogs because they were chased or bit by a dog when they were young.


I believe zoophobia is one of the most common phobias. Do people who suffer from this phobia have things in common?

For example, did they experience a traumatic incident with an animal when they were young? Where does this fear usually stem from?


@ysmina – That sounds like a good way to overcome anxiety over animals. Dealing with just one animal at a time would be the way to go.

I knew a girl who had zoophobia, and her parents decided that the best way to get her over it was to overwhelm her with animals. They sent her to live with her aunt on a farm for the summer!

I thought this was cruel. She was afraid to go outside because of the large variety of animals on the property. After a week of hiding in the house, she finally convinced them that she needed therapy instead of sudden exposure.


I pity anyone who has zoophobia. I have the more common phobias, like fear of heights and spiders, but those are fairly easy to deal with. I simply stay away from high places and leave the area if I see a spider.

However, animals are everywhere. Even if you live in the middle of a crowded city, people will always be out walking their pets.


My sister worked at a vet clinic, and they had just hired a new receptionist. This girl was also expected to help out with the animals from time to time, but she could not do this, because she had zoophobia.

I don't know what this girl was thinking when she accepted a job at an animal clinic. She would draw up and shake whenever someone came in with a dog, and she couldn't show them into an exam room because she was paralyzed with fear.

They had to let her go. I suppose she must have assumed she'd be safely tucked away in an office doing paperwork, but she quickly learned that this wasn't the case.


Fear of kittens and puppies is not a common phobia. Fear of cows and insects are more common than these.

Cows are large animals that could easily squish the life out of a person if given the opportunity to step on them. Insects cause pain when they sting or bite, and some of them are poisonous and can kill you.

The worst that puppies and kittens can do is chew on you and claw you. While this is uncomfortable, it is no reason to fear for your life when you are around them.


@MikeMason-- I overcame this phobia. I went to therapy and I made myself face my fears by adopting a pet. Eventually, I realized that animals are harmless and learned to love them. When I see a new animal, I do still get frightened initially. But it's not as bad as it used to be.


@alisha-- I know it can be frustrating to be around people who have zoophobia but believe me, no one does this intentionally. It's a reaction they can't control.

If you judge someone with zoophobia, you will make things harder for them because they will lose more self-esteem about this issue.

Instead, you should encourage your brother's girlfriend to speak to a psychologist or a therapist about it. I'm sure there are people who have overcome this phobia.


My brother's girlfriend has zoophobia. She is scared of all animals. If someone's pet comes close to her, she starts screaming and running. It's really embarrassing for my brother and me when we're around her.

I know that this is a psychological issue but I have trouble understanding it because I personally love animals. She is even scared of birds for God's sake! How can she be scared of all animals?!

Is zoophobia a common phobia?

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