Ailurophobia is a type of specific phobia: the persistent, irrational fear of cats. The name comes from the Greek αἴλουρος (ailouros), "cat" and φόβος (phóbos), "fear". Other names include felinophobia, elurophobia, and cat phobia.
The phobia manifests itself in different ways. For most people it is less about fear than about loathing, similar to the reaction many people have to snakes or rats. Some people experience it almost all the time, others just in response to direct stimuli. Some possible situations that can trigger the loathing of cats are: hearing purring, seeing a cat in real life, imagining the possibility of a cat touching or rubbing against one, the thought of meeting a cat in the dark, seeing the staring eyes of a cat (cats have the tendency to stare at passers-by) cats in pictures and on television, and cat-like toys and cat-like fur. Big cats such as lions or tigers can also trigger the stimuli associated with a phobia.
There are many ways to treat ailurophobia; treatment is usually carried out by a psychiatrist or other therapy specialist.
One strongly motivated patient was able to recover by slowly becoming accustomed to cat fur by first touching varying types of velvet, then becoming accustomed to a toy kitten, and finally a live kitten which the patient subsequently adopted.
In popular culture
In the 1965 animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas, the character Lucy lists a number of phobias to Charlie Brown and incorrectly states, "If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia."
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