Massage Therapy for Cats

Understanding Feline Massage Therapy

Holistic medicine, including massage, is a very controversial subject. There are passionate opinions on both sides. For cats, opponents claim that if “alternative” treatments really worked, they would be more widely accepted, and many illnesses and ailments would have been cured long ago.

Proponents feel that holistic treatments provide a more “natural” way to heal the body. Many times, “alternative” treatments are used to augment more traditional treatments and are not commonly used as the only treatment.

This article is intended to discuss massage therapy. The final decision to add these treatments to your pet’s current regime should be decided between you and your veterinarian.

Benefits of Massage for Cats

Massage has had a noted function in our society for thousands of years. The soothing sensation of touch and the manipulation of muscles has shown a benefit for humans and animals.

The known benefits from a massage include:

Massage is not a substitute for veterinary care. If it is performed by a trained and certified person, it works with the individual needs of the cat along with veterinary-recommended treatments. Sometimes, the massage therapist may even detect subtle underlying problems that may prompt a visit to your veterinarian.

When Not to Massage Your Cat

Despite the many positive aspects of massage, there are some situations in which it may not be an appropriate treatment. Animals suffering from fever, shock, infection, open wounds, rashes, lumps, and/or immune disease typically do not benefit from massage, and taking time to perform a massage will delay much needed veterinary care. A certified practitioner of animal massage is trained in anatomy, movement, and observation, and may decline to proceed with a massage treatment if the health of the patient is at risk.

The Process of a Professional Massage

The massage practitioner first observes the pet’s gait and movement, demeanor, reactions, and body language. The information obtained from this observation will help determine the type of massage. As the massage session proceeds, the practitioner will note positive and negative results and reaction to therapy. This will help the practitioner to modify and change the choreographed massage as needed by your pet. The average massage session is 30 minutes.

Massage involves applying pressure to specific parts of the body. The amount of pressure used will vary from five grams to five pounds and depends on the size of the pet, needs of the pet, and the type of injury. The muscles will respond and allow manipulation only if the pet is comfortable and the touch is light and gentle. A firm, harsh, or controlling touch is counterproductive. For this reason, massage is different than the normal everyday way we pet our animals.

How Feline Massage Works

The aging process takes a toll on your cat. Arthritis, joint problems, torn or over- extended muscles and ligaments, injury, and surgery are some of the more common ailments that can benefit from increased flexibility and reduced physical and mental stress. The massage itself will promote socialization of your cat and enhance the human-animal bond. During a period of confinement or restricted movement, the body is at rest and the muscles are inactive or stiff when activities are resumed. Massage improves the flexibility of these muscles and aids in preventing injury. Cats that repeatedly do the same things, such as jump on a specific table, may use and abuse muscles frequently. Massage relaxes the muscle, reduces strain, and helps avoid injury.

Each muscle affects other muscles. There is a domino effect to the way each muscle works in conjunction with each other, and to the bones of the body they are connected to. A muscle in the rear leg that has suffered trauma will affect the muscles throughout the back, abdomen, front legs, and neck. This will change the way in which the animal walks, stands, eats, and plays. It can also change their behavior.

Medication alone will help control pain and inflammation and even help control the signs of trauma to the muscles. But massage can help to heal the trauma. Manipulation of the muscles strengthens them and allows the pet to release adhesions and to use the muscles slowly.

The techniques used for massage should be used by a trained and certified individual, but the therapist or practitioner may show you some techniques that you can safely do in-between each massage session.

Techniques for Feline Massage

Massage is divided into different techniques based on the systems it affects. The circulatory system responds to the stroking. The muscles and skin respond to kneading, passive joint movement, and stretching. The nervous system benefits by passive touch and stroking.

The massage therapist will evaluate the animal and determine which technique is best suited for them. That technique is then performed three times. The direction of application varies. Sometimes it is toward and away from the heart. Other times it is with the muscle fibers, across the muscle fibers, or circular in motion.

Wondering if pet insurance helps cover alternative therapies like massage? Click here to learn more.