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[medical citation needed] Ailurophobia is a type of specific phobia: the persistent, irrational fear of cats.[1] The name comes from the Greek αἴλουρος (ailouros), 'cat' and φόβος (phóbos), 'fear'. Other names include felinophobia,[2] elurophobia,[2] and cat phobia.[2] A person with such a fear is known as an ailurophobe.


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.[citation needed] Some people experience it almost all the time,[citation needed] 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 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 the phobia.[3][better source needed]. This phobia, in relation to big cats, may have biological (or even evolutionary) origin. There is evidence that the Australopithecus (ancestor of the genus Homo) were prey of Dinofelis, a feline of the extinct Machairodontinae subfamily. In size they were between a modern leopard and a lion, with most about the size of a jaguar (70 cm tall and up to 120 kg). However, analysis of carbon isotope ratios in specimens from Swartkrans indicates that Dinofelis' preferentially hunted grazing animals. The main predators of hominids in the environment at that time were most likely leopards and fellow machairodont Megantereon, whose carbon isotope ratios showed more indication of preying on hominids.[4]


One strongly motivated patient was able to recover by slowly becoming accustomed to cat fur, under therapist supervision, by first touching varying types of velvet, then becoming accustomed to a toy kitten, and finally a live kitten which the patient subsequently adopted. As the kitten grew, she also became less afraid of full-grown cats.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

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."[5] The word-forming element "-phasia" is a scientific Greek suffix used to form the names of disorders and phenomena relating to words and speech, such as cryptophasia, aphasia, dysphasia, and schizophasia.[6]

In the 1969 horror film, Eye of the Cat, where the protagonist planning the murder of an elderly woman has a fear of cats.

In the 1988 anime City Hunter 2, the character Umibozu has a fear of cats.

In the 1989 anime Ranma 1/2 the main character Ranma Saotome has a fear of cats.

In the movie series The Mummy, the main antagonist Imhotep has a fear of cats, since he is a living corpse and cats have associations as guardians of the underworld in Egyptian mythology.

In the 2016 anime High School Fleet the character Mashiro Munetani has a fear of cats.

In the 2017 anime Nyanko Days, the character Arashi Iketani has a fear of cats.

The title character in the comic strip Big Nate has ailurophobia.

The character Robbie Jackson, in the BBC soap opera EastEnders has the condition.

Impractical Joker Sal Vulcano has ailurophobia.

Xiumin of musical group Exo developed ailurophobia in his childhood due to being attacked by a cat. He apparently overcame his fear at some point in his mid 20s, as he's had a pet cat since at least December 2016 and stated cats as his favorite animal in the seventh volume of the Exo-L Japan Official Book, which was released February 2018.

In Minecraft, the Creeper will run away from cats and ocelots.

In The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, the expansion to the video game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, there is an Orc in Crucible named Ushnar gro-Shadborgob who owns a dog and is deathly afraid of cats. Unfortunately for him, he is constantly being pursued by a Khajiit beggar named Bhisha who is fond of dogs. Ushnar will give you a quest to get rid of Bhisha, either by killing him or convincing him to move to Bliss. If you are a Khajiit yourself, however, Ushnar will instead set his dog on you, as the Khajit resemble bipedal, human-sized cats.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ London, Louis S. (January 1952). "Ailurophobia and ornithophobia: Cat phobia and bird phobia". The Psychiatric Quarterly. 26 (1–4): 365–371. doi:10.1007/BF01568473. PMID 14949213.
  2. ^ a b c Szasz, Thomas. A lexicon of lunacy: metaphoric malady, moral responsibility, and psychiatry. p. 68.
  3. ^ a b Freeman, H. L.; D. C. Kendrick (August 1960). "A case of cat phobia. Treatment by a method derived from experimental psychology". BMJ. 2 (5197): 497–502. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.5197.497. PMC 2097085. PMID 13824737.
  4. ^ "Dinofelis – hominid hunter or misunderstood feline?".
  5. ^ Schulz, Charles. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (PDF). Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  6. ^ See -phasia at Wiktionary.

Further reading[edit]

  • Crawford, Nelson Antrim (1934). "Cats Holy and Profane". Psychoanalytic Review. 21: 168–179. Retrieved 9 April 2009.