Unless your cat is sitting there purring contentedly, it can be very hard to work out what the creatures are actually thinking.
But cats do have facial expressions, they’re just very, very hard to read, according to researchers from the University of Guelph.
A small number of cat owners - dubbed ‘cat whisperers’ - are good at ‘reading’ their cats, but most of us are little better than 50-50 at guessing what our cats are thinking.
The finding could lead to new tools which allow vets and cat owners to understand their pets, the researchers say.
"Cats are telling us things with their faces, and if you're really skilled, you can spot it," said lead author Georgia Mason of the University of Guelph in Ontario.
"Some people can do it - that means there's something there. That means that cats are hard to read.”
More than 6,000 volunteers watched cat videos and tried to guess the animals’ emotions.
The researchers classified the videos according to positive and negative scenarios, such as receiving a treat, and fleeing, then assessed whether the volunteers chose the ‘right’ emotion.
Most of the volunteers scored 60% correct, but a small number (13%) scored 75% or above - with professionals including vets among the highest scorers, according to Science Alert.
Mason said, "They could be naturally brilliant, and that's why they become veterinarians.”
"But they also have a lot of opportunity to learn, and they've got a lot of motivation to learn, because they're constantly deciding: Is this cat better? Do we need to change the treatment? Does this cat need to go home? Is this cat about to take a chunk out of my throat?"