Cats intimidate opponents by arching their backs, raising their fur, turning sideways, and hissing: sometimes acting this way spreads panic amongst human beings that are highly sensitive towards them. This causes ailurophobia.
Ailurophobia is a type of specific phobia: the persistent, irrational fear of cats. It comes from the Greek αἴλουρος (aílouros), "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, cats in pictures and on television, and cat-like toys and cat-like fur.
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
The character of Ranma Saotome, from the manga/anime series Ranma ½, suffers from a severe case of ailurophobia due to a martial arts training exercise he was forced to endure in his youth.
In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy Van Pelt suggests to Charlie Brown that he might have a fear of cats (although she incorrectly refers to it as "ailurophasia").
Nate Wright in the book and comic strip Big Nate written by Lincon Pierce. (He has big problems with his phobia because his best friend has a cat for a pet) Often he encounters them during soccer and baseball.
A character of the video game FUSE, Dalton Brooks, is afraid of cats.
A character in the video game The Elder Scrolls IV: The Shivering Isles, Ushnar gro-Shadborgob is so afraid of cats that he will ask for the hero to kill a Khajiit (Feline humanoid) Bhisha.
The character Mio Isurugi, from the anime/manga MM!, is shown to have a fear of cats that causes her to freeze up and tremble at the sight of them.
Yakuza Member "M", from the manga "What's Michael?" by Makoto Kobayashi, has a crippling case of ailurophobia
Joe Ellis, infamous pastor of Telkwa Reformed Calvanist Church, is reportedly deathly afraid of cats.