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Pet Subjects: 'my sweet-natured cocker spaniel is aggressive off lead, what do I do?' 

Pete Wedderburn/ Cocker Spaniel 
'Off lead, our cocker bares her teeth at other dogs. At all other times she is delightful. Any suggestions?' Credit: Pete Wedderburn/Getty Images 

Dear Pete

My two-year-old cat isn’t the cuddliest of cats (she’s a hunter) but she often lies on her back when I play with her, showing me her tummy. The trouble is, whenever I tickle her tummy, she takes my hand in both her paws and tries to eat it. Why is she doing this? Does she want a tummy rub or not?

AB, Sussex

Dear AB

When feeling affectionate, cats often throw themselves on to their side, rolling over and exposing their belly. She’s telling you that she trusts you, by exposing a vulnerable area, but she does not want you to touch her there. Less than one in 10 cats like to be stroked there, with 90 per cent reacting aggressively if humans try to pet their abdomen. In future, when she does this, try petting the top of her head, around her ears and above her eyes. Most cats do enjoy this type of social bonding contact. To learn more about cat behaviour, read Cat Sense by John Bradshaw (Penguin, 2014).

Dear Pete 

Our working cocker spaniel has a lovely nature but on walks, off and on the leash, she can be very aggressive if other dogs get too close to her face. She bares her teeth in warning and if they persist, she attacks them viciously. At all other times she is delightful. Any suggestions?

GOF, Putney

Dear GOF 

Many modern dogs are not well socialised with other dogs. Their dog-to-dog manners can be appalling, going straight for face to face contact before the usual niceties of pausing to gaze and sniff, then getting-to-know-each-other gradually by side to side positioning and bottom sniffing. When a sensitive dog is confronted by a rude dog like this that they don’t know, they often take the attitude of “attack is the best form of defence”. It may be best to have a rule that she is simply never allowed to get close to other dogs when out and about unless she already knows them.

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Rescue pet

Mia the husky 

Mia is a friendly five-year-old husky. She is fine with other dogs but doesn’t like cats. Call Wadars Animal Rescue on 01903 247111.

Send queries to [email protected] or tweet 
@PeteTheVet. All sick animals should be taken to a vet

Pet Subjects by Peter Wedderburn is published by Aurum Press (£12.99). To order a copy  visit books.telegraph.co.uk