Everyone enjoys a nice, relaxing massage—including your cat. A massage might make your kitty feel pampered, but it actually serves a healing purpose too. Professional cat massage therapists are becoming more common, but you can massage your cat at home for an experience that will benefit you both.
Cat Massage Benefits
Massage, either in addition to physical therapy or as a therapy on its own, benefits humans, so it shouldn't be surprising that it can be good for your cat too. Manipulating your kitty's muscles will calm and relax her and help heal trauma. Giving your cat a massage can help alleviate pain from arthritis, joint trouble and strains and sprains. Massage is also effective in improving circulation and discouraging scar tissue and other fibrous buildup. Regular massages for your cat will give you the opportunity to become more familiar with her little furry body, which can result in catching tumors, lesions and other abnormalities early. And since petting a cat lowers your blood pressure, treating your kitty to a massage will benefit you as an added bonus.
There are almost as many feline massage techniques as there are methods for massaging humans. Passive joint movement is a lot like traditional physical therapy involving stretching and moving an injured joint to improve your cat's range of motion. Some techniques focus on increasing blood flow, passive touch for warming your cat's skin and muscle tissue, stroking to soothe and quiet your kitty and kneading. The kneading is similar to deep tissue massage but the pressure used on your cat will be much less than what is used on a human. This is one technique that is best left to a professional to avoid applying too much pressure and inadvertently harming your kitty.
DIY Kitty Massage
If you'd like to give your cat a massage, start at her head and work your way back. Scratch behind and between her ears and gently rub her ears one at a time. Scratch the sides of her face and then under her chin and move back to the top of her head. Then firmly stroke down the length of your kitty's body, from her head to her tail, several times. Focus on stroking only her back a few times, then stroke the entire length of her body—tail included—two or three more times. Finish off by slowly stroking her tail, starting at the base and gently squeezing her tail in your hand as you pull it along the length.
Giving your cat a gentle, full-body stroking is one thing, but attempting to take on her physical therapy yourself is a different matter. If your cat requires therapeutic massage, her physical therapist may show you some techniques you can use at home, but you shouldn't take that as license to discontinue her professional treatment. It also isn't a good idea to delay veterinary treatment for any condition by trying at-home massage as a substitute. If your cat has a fever or infection or is suffering from shock, take her to see the vet right away. You can soothe her by petting her as you sit in the waiting room, but a massage in general won't fix problems related to fever, infection or shock.
- Vet Info: Cat Massage: A Hands-on Guide
- PetPlace: Massage Therapy for Cats
- HealthyPet: Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Pets
- Healing Touch for Cats: The Proven Massage Program for Cats; Michael W. Fox
- Nursing the Feline Patient; Linda E. Schmeltzer and Gary D. Norsworthy
- Hart's Original Petpourri; Robert Hart
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images