Sarah Hartwell

What psychologist is not familiar with the concept of the Id, Ego and Super-Ego and their conflicting desires and restraints? Can there be anyone in the field who has not read about split purrsonality or, more correctly, Multiple Purrsonality Disorder? Is there any owner ignorant of the fact that their cat is a split purrsonality, an uneasy coexistence of domestic versus untamed? Though recognised informally by sensitive owners for decades, only recently has Feline Multiple Purrsonality Disorder (FMPD) been recognised by purr-psychologists.

Inside every cat there is a whole clowder of different purrsonalities all struggling to be expressed. Some will be expressed at the expense of others. Some will be repressed or denied. This denial of a purrsonality will cause inner conflict for the cat. Many cats resolve the conflict be switching between purrsonalities. This switching can cause stresses in the cat/owner relationship.

Purr-psychologists now recognise several complexes ("sets of related, conflicting or complementary, purrsonalities"). A single cat can exhibit multiple complexes and complex mixutres of types from various complexes e.g. tiger-kitten, tiger-parent, tame-parent etc.


One moment your fur-baby is a cute kitten cat playing with a jingle toy and chasing string and wanting you to mother him/her. The next moment s/he is a cat, disdaining such juvenile behaviour and remaining aloof from all you approaches - the cat who walks alone. Before your head stops spinning at the sudden transformation, a dead mouse is at your feet - fur-baby is mothering you with an offering of food.

Now the dilemma for the caring owner - do you play with the offering or fake eating it? Should you react in the role of child/equal/parent to complement your cat's kitten/cat/parent role and to avoid conflict? 


One moment kitty is a docile, cuddly love-rag. Then suddenly, without so much as a tail twitch of warning, kitty turns into a scaled down Siberian tiger and tries to tear your arm off. Kitty is evidently confused, but the owner is even more confused by Kitty's sudden change in personality.

Inside every tame kitty there is a savage tiger seeking expression. Whether the tiger-side is expressed by shredding the toilet roll, by disembowelling your favourite beanie toy or by depopulating the surrounding countryside of prey, it must find an outlet.







Plays with string, jingle toys and feathers.

Plays with pigs, goats and body-parts.


Aloof, ignores you. May hiss or bite if you invade its space. .

Aloof, eats you. Will hunt you if you invade its space.


Will bring you a dead mouse or symbolic inanimate offering.

Will bring you a mauled deer and expect you to kill it yourself.



Even a neutered cat's thoughts sometimes turn to the thorny issue of sex, or more often to the puzzling fact that they aren't particularly interested in it. However, the right combination of pheromones can turn even the most chaste or celibate moggy into a raving sex-fiend who leaps with gay abandon onto your teddy bear, your miniature dachshund or even onto your own neck. It's time to change your perfume (how were they manufacturers to know they'd synthesised Eau de Tomcat or Essence of Oestrus Queen?), spay the dachshund and hide teddy. Or if the transformation is due to a rampant stray sitting in your garden, do the decent thing and take him or her to the cat shelter or arrange for trap-neuter-release.

Most such cats only display their Whore/Gigolo side occasionally. Many owners are quite happy for their pet to have a fulfilling relationship with an old woollen sweater. Just so long as you don't want to wear the sweater again. Though it may be more problematical explaining to Little Miss Hussy that (a) she's been snipped and (b) your leather handbag is not going to make wild, passionate love to her.


To be continued as research progresses .



De Catto, Edward, "What Do You Say After You've Said Meow?", 1989, revised 1993

De Catto, Edward, "Meow - Beyond Yes and No" 1991

"When Cabbit Howls - The Story of a Cat Whose Alter Ego is a Rabbit" 1990

Purr-psychology Today, "The Three Faces of Fluffy - Case Study" Issue 19, January 1998

"Purrzac - Viable Alternative to Catnip in the Treatment of FMPD?" (clinical paper) 1998