The gentle touch of a massage can be a source of great relief and comfort. So it's no surprise that this technique can be equally beneficial for your pet as it is for humans. Cats, like humans, experience ailments which require more than standard medication. With enough knowledge and with gentle hands, you can help your cat reap the rewards of a therapeutic massage.
The benefits of massage
The skin is a cat's largest sensory organ and directly connected to their overall wellness. By understanding the benefits of massage, you will be able to strengthen the bond you have with your pet. So, what kind of benefits could a massage provide a cat, you ask? Plenty! The benefits include:
- Increased flexibility, aiding with stiff joints and tightened muscles
- Mental and physical relaxation, invoking calm and reducing stress. It has also been shown to alleviate anxiety and aggression in nervous cats and improve socialization
- Increase circulation through stimulation of the muscles and tissues which improves blood flow and releases toxins.
- Reduces pain, generally from joint stiffness and arthritis
- Lowers blood pressure levels and heart rate
- Creates a general sense of wellness
- Strengthens the bond and trust between you and your cat
Before you begin the massage
For your first massage session, there are a few things you will want to remember to do. First, you will want to know what your cat normally feels like: all of their normal lumps, bumps and pre-existing conditions. This will help you detect any new abnormalities that you may feel on your cat's body. You will also want to be on the lookout for signs of illness or injury, such as cat bites or a mass in the abdomen. You will want to also check your cat's glands, which are located under the jaw, in the armpit, the groin and the upper hock areas. To prevent overstimulation, your cat's massage should not exceed 30 minutes. Contact your veterinarian if you find any abnormality before proceeding with a massage.
Forms of massage
Understanding the various forms of massage that you can provide your cat is essential in beginning the process of bonding and healing. Two common forms of massage are effleurage and petrissage.
Effleurage is a series of long strokes, applied with medium pressure, which helps to stimulate your cat's muscles and tissues. Aiding in the circulation of blood throughout the body, effleurage is conducted with stroking towards the heart. For example, rubbing from your cat's paws upwards towards the body.
Petrissage is a massage performed with more intense pressure. It involves kneading, where the compression of the stroke helps to intense tension within the muscles and knots that may have formed. A form of petrissage is called "skin rolling." This technique is beneficial in increasing blood circulation in the skin and underlying tissue layers.
Two other forms of movements can also be effective with muscle stimulation and blood circulation. "Chopping" is a movement involving the edge of your hand applying a chopping motion to a muscular area on the cat's body in a rapid motion and with medium applied pressure. 'Tapping' is the act of holding your fingers together and tapping a particular area on the body. This movement can be centralized to more specific areas on the body. Both are effective in increasing blood and lymph circulation.
When not to massage your cat
However beneficial massaging may be, there are certain conditions in which massaging your cat may be harmful and should be avoided.
Do not massage your cat if they have inflamed skin, open wounds, fractures, damage to any tissue or ligaments, cats that have tumors or cancer, any cat experiencing heatstroke, has a fever, is in clinical shock, or is in any pain that is not yet being managed with professional help.t
When in doubt, seek professional advice from your veterinarian and a certified massage therapist. A trained professional will better be able to assist in providing your cat with a more thorough and relieving massage.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.