"Never approach a cat who is busy. A cat studying birds or engaged in its purity ritual will not welcome a greeting, however effusive. If the cat makes eye contact, adopt a deferential demeanour and repeat the word `ma' quietly, in a low, steady tone - you should sound like a sheep with a head cold. This introduces you as a non-cat (which of course the cat already knew). The greeting is not place-sensitive - you could use it in the street, but if the cat replies `mupRup miew pirp' (bring me a little tuna), what will you do? So forethought is essential. When no food is at hand, a communication in the `flattery voice' - your vowels should deepen and elongate - is usually welcome. If the cat says something like `mupRup prih m'mow Rup' (scratch my ear), respond immediately. Make your comments pertinent to the cat you're addressing - but `m'mow rrow wah row' (what handsome whiskers) will serve as an all-purpose stopgap.
Cats take offence easily, especially over grammatical errors. Watch out for the `offended blink', and arm yourself with an all-purpose apology, such as `maruh maowpirp row' (I'm only human). They also have little concept of truth, but a very high concept of humour, so beware. You can delicately challenge their inventions with a simple `moh?' (should I believe this?) but it will spoil their fun. If you find yourself warning MI6 of an imminent invasion of cats from the planet Canopus, it's a pretty safe bet you've been had." Interview by Fiona McClymont
`Spoken Cat and Relevant Factors in Worldview' by Alexandra Sellers is published by Bellew Publishing at pounds 17.50