What do you call a person who loves cats? Cat lovers will know that you call them an ailurophile which is a word made up of the Greek words ‘ailouros’ (αἴλουρος) meaning cat and the suffix ‘phile’ meaning lover. Some online jokers might call them ‘crazy cat ladies’. They’d be wrong because ladies who love cats are not crazy unless they are hoarders when they are a tiny bit crazy.
‘Ailurophile’ has been around since the early 1900s and cat lovers have been in existence as long as the wildcat has been domesticated; almost 10,000 years (Cyprus). After all loving cats is one reason why cat domestication exists, the other being utility. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the first known use of the word ‘ailurophile’ was in 1914.
The wordhippo website says that αίλουρος (aílouros) means ‘wildcat’. Similar words are: γάτος meaning tomcat and αγριόγατος (agriógatos) meaning bobcat and catamount (puma).
Many famous people especially authors are classified as ailurophiles. I have a long list of ailurophile authors but perhaps the two best known American ailurophiles are Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain. Mark Twain appears to have been besotted by cats. He liked to ‘rent’ them for a summer season. Perhaps his lifestyle prevented him ‘owing’ these cats. Perhaps he did not believe in cat ownership. If so he was correct.
In the UK three famous authors who were ailurophiles are Emily Brontë, Charlotte Brontë and Rudyard Kipling. Emily Brontë’s cat ‘Tiger’ played at her feet while she wrote Wuthering Heights.
Kipling is the author who imbued us with the idea that domestic cats are aloof and independent, “the Cat that Walks by Himself”. He was not quite right to be honest. Domestic cats have been quite sociable due to domestication.
A wonderful young lady who was an ailurophile is Anne Frank (1929-1945), the diarist. She was the guardian of three cats while hiding in an attic in The Netherlands during the war: Boche, Tommy and Mouschi.
All the authors who loved cats are loved themselves. To a man or woman they were very talented. It is interesting to note that the list of author ailurophiles that I have (Cat World by Dr Desmond Morris) contains 49 names. Ten of them are female and the remainder are males. Does that say more about who wants to be an author rather than who loves cats?