Pets

How to tell what your cat is thinking

Learn to read your cat's body language.

Some people seem to instinctively understand what their cat is thinking, but the rest of us get it wrong all the time.

Auckland veterinarian and Purina ONE ambassador Dr Alex Melrose believes cats are actually rather good at telling us what they think. "They're really expressive - the look you think they're giving you is probably conveying exactly what they're thinking or feeling."

Cats' most verbal form of communicating with us is meowing and they'll employ this when they want you to feed them or let them outside or alternatively back in. But they may also greet you with a meow in the mornings or when you arrive home from work. If you want to encourage them to talk more, talk back to them, Dr Melrose suggests. But if they talk too much you can discourage them by not responding to them every time.

Despite their reputation for being solitary animals cats are social and enjoy our company, and the company of other pets. They can get bored if they don't get enough attention and one way of them letting you know this is they'll carry out random attacks on you. An ambush could also mean they're practicing hunting or feeling a sudden surge of energy (think kittens here).

If they really trust you they'll roll over and let you stroke their tummy - but don't try this if they haven't given you permission.

When cats rub against us or an object they're transferring their scent from the glands in their cheeks; it's a way of marking their possessions and territory. However Dr Melrose believes that because we respond so well to this behaviour, over time cats have adapted it simply as a way of showing us their affection.

Kneading comes from when they were kittens suckling on their mother's milk. They feel comfortable and content - and obviously your lap takes them back to those lovely times.