August 2, 2021 |0 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed
Cat Massages: Best Areas to Hit For a Happy and Relaxed Cat
Are you looking for a new way to give some TLC to your favorite feline friend? We’ve got just the thing: a cat massage!
The super sweet thing about giving your cat a massage is that it’s good for both of you. It promotes bonding with your fur baby, helps you both relax, and reduces stress hormones. Not only that, but it’s an easy way to keep tabs on your cat’s health.
Read on to find out some pawfully cute techniques on how to massage a cat and what areas to focus on for a happy, relaxed kitty.
Massage Techniques for Cats
Before we hone in on where, let’s cover the how of cat massage.
Massage therapy is the art of moving the soft tissues of the body by using specific techniques such as stroking, kneading, and patting.
There are many different techniques used in cat massages, with some pretty fancy names. It’s important to choose the approach that best matches the target area—as you know from experience, many kitties have a different tolerance for pets on their backs and shoulders than on their tails and paws.
Get familiar with the following techniques:
- Stroking – Running the hands with light to medium pressure from head to tail and down the limbs. This is also an opportunity for you to note any areas of increased tension, lumps or swelling, or anything unusual that you may want to have your vet check out.
- Effleurage – A gliding stroke using the whole hand and applying medium pressure in the direction of the heart. Start from the backside toward the head and then from the toes toward the torso. This helps to improve circulation within the skin and tissues.
- Petrissage – A deeper level of pressure than effleurage, petrissage is a kneading, compressive stroke into the muscle, used to relieve tension, knots, and muscle spasms.
- Skin Rolling – A variation on petrissage, skin rolling is done by gently pinching your cat’s fur and skin between your fingers. Work from the end of each limb to the torso, and then from the tail to the chest. Skin rolling releases any adherence of the skin to the deeper tissues in your cat’s body and can increase circulation of the blood and lymph fluids. This is a lesser-known technique, but most cats really enjoy the sensations!
- Chopping – Use the edge of the palm in a rapid, chopping fashion with gentle to medium pressure. Chopping is typically used over areas of large muscle mass, such as the shoulder blades and the rump. Use caution. Some cats may not like this kind of touch, especially those that startle easily.
- Tapping – A variation of chopping, tapping is performed by holding the fingers together in a slightly curved shape and tapping the muscles. This is used for a more focused treatment. Both chopping and tapping energize the tissues, increasing circulation of the lymphatic system and the blood.
Now you know all about the different types of massage techniques that can be used on your favorite kitty.
Where should you start?
Sample Massage Session
The aim is to develop an approach tailored for your cat, but here’s an example of a massage session that you could do in about 10-15 minutes. Use this as a guide to try different techniques and find what works best for you and your cat.
Pay attention to any lumps, swelling, or temperature differences from one area to another, as massage is a great way to conduct a quick physical exam to monitor your fur baby’s health!
After stroking their from head-to-tail a few times, move on to massaging each part of their body for 1-2 minutes:
- Head – Start by petting the top of your cat’s head, cheeks, chin, and that sweet spot just above the nose and between their eyes. After a moment or two, focus in on the ears, rotating your fingers around each one, rubbing the inside and outside. If your cat leans into your touch and starts to purr, that’s a great sign that they’re enjoying it!
- Shoulders – Scratch or glide your fingers down their head to the back of the neck, and then down their shoulders, following the line of each shoulder blade. Move around to the front and scratch gently under their neck.
- Tailbone – Another sweet spot is your kitty’s tailbone. Even the most aloof cat will find it hard to resist! Glide your hand down to the spot on top, just before the start of the tail, using light to medium pressure. Treat your cat to a combination of stroking and scratching. Notice the reaction!
- Try a new technique – Now that your cat is relaxed and enjoying the massage, you could try some of the different techniques listed above. Use deeper pressure down their back, or try effleurage, moving with medium pressure from the extremities toward their heart, or skin rolling, pinching their skin between your fingers in the same direction.
- Tummy – Approach your cat’s underbody cautiously. Some love a good tummy massage, and others don’t. You probably already know what your cat likes! But if not, take it slow, gently massaging the tummy and carefully noting the response.
- Foot Massage – Work your way down to each paw, holding each one gently with your thumb and pressing lightly on each of the pads with a slight rubbing motion between your fingers. Again, some cats will enjoy this and others won’t. It all depends on what your cat likes. This can also help you monitor the condition of your cat’s pad, and detect any scrapes or small, embedded objects such as splinters or pebbles.
- Chopping – If your cat is still really enjoying the massage you could try one of the chopping techniques, using the edge of your hand or your fingertips in a rapid motion on areas of larger muscle mass, such as the rump and hindquarters. This will energize the tissue and flush out toxins.
- Tail – Use long strokes on the top of their tail from base to tip, but only if your kitty likes it. A cat’s tail is a very sensitive part of the body. Avoid petting your cat on the underside of the tail, as most cats do not like this.
- Finish – After 10-15 minutes, or whenever you’re both ready to end the massage, treat your pet to a few more slow, gentle, head-to-tail, full-body strokes. Your cat should be a purring lump of fur by now!
Remember: try different techniques in new ways to see what your cat likes best. If your cat hates you touching a particular spot on their body, and you feel a lump or scab there, make a note of it and check on it the next day. If the problem persists, talk to your vet.
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Tips for Your First Massage
Now you know where and how to massage your cat, but you may still be unclear about the when. While some cats are always happy for a quick pet, others resist even chin scratches unless they’re in exactly the right mood.
For your first session, you want to create a positive experience for your cat so they’ll want to keep coming back for a massage again and again.
Use the following tips to set the stage.
Choose the Right Mood
Before you give a massage, try to be in a calm, relaxed mood yourself. This will send your cat the vibe to relax too. Take a few slow, deep breaths to put you both at ease.
Pay close attention to your kitty’s body language, and don’t force it. Your pet will let you know if they’re not interested.
Let Your Cat Approach You
Instead of picking your cat up quickly and jump-starting their nervous system, try waiting for them to come to you. And make sure to wait until at least two hours after mealtime.
Choose a time when she naturally turns to you for love and affection, in an area that’s free from excess noise and distractions. Let them settle into a comfortable position in your lap or even beside you. Then, start out with some gentle touch in whatever way you know they already like.
Begin by stroking your feline from head to tail with gentle, consistent pressure down the entire length of their body. This might be what you already do every day, and that’s just fine. You might even want to talk or hum or sing to your cat in a low, soothing voice. This will relax them.
Make sure to avoid any cuts, injuries, or infected areas, and use caution in cats with more serious health problems. If you’re not sure if a massage is okay for your cat, check with your pet’s veterinarian.
Health Benefits of Cat Massage
Need more motivation to elevate your petting game?
Just like with humans, massage has been shown to have remarkable health benefits in cats:
- Stimulates the nerves, muscles, circulatory, and lymphatic systems
- Increases oxygen supply throughout the body, and helps flush away toxins
- Controls inflammation and promotes wound healing
- Improves cardiovascular fitness and mobility
- Prevents chronic pain.
- Treats depression and anxiety
- Aids in rehabilitation from illness or injury
Keep an Eye on Your Pet’s Health with PrettyLitter
Massage is a wonderful way to strengthen your bond with your kitty and stay up-to-date with any potential issues in their skin, muscles, and coat. While your cat can’t always tell you what’s wrong, massage is a great way to get ahead of any potential problems.
Another easy way to monitor your cat’s health is with Pretty Litter, the World’s Smartest Cat Litter. Unlike traditional litter, PrettyLitter keeps tabs on your cat by changing color to indicate when your cat may have a potential health issue. When the litter changes color, you can get your cat to the vet before it becomes a more serious problem.
Save money on potential vet bills and keep your fur baby healthy and happy with cat massage and PrettyLitter.
Rover. How (and Why) to Massage a Cat. https://www.rover.com/blog/how-to-massage-a-cat/
Clinicians Brief. Feline Rehabilitation: Can Your Team Do It? https://www.cliniciansbrief.com/article/feline-rehabilitation-can-your-team-do-it
Purina. Cats Benefit From Massages Too: A How-to Guide. https://www.purina.com.au/fancyfeast/thelounge/articles/joy/cat-massagingVCA Hospitals. Therapeutic Massage and Your Cat. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/therapeutic-massage-and-your-cat