Basic care

How to Give a Cat a Massage

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: March 27, 2019
How to Give a Cat a Massage

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Cats have an undeserved reputation of being animals with little time for affection. The truth is that the vast majority of our feline companions will enjoy enormously the caresses and massages we happily provide them. Those which don't enjoy massages usually have issues with socialization or human interaction, something which might be changed with some positive reinforcement. Massaging is also a great way to improve the bond between human and cat.

In this AnimalWised article we show you how to give a cat a massage so that it can relax. We provide a step-by-step guide and show you the benefits this practice can bring. We'll also give you additional information you should consider such as the precautions you need to take before you give a cat a massage.

You may also be interested in: How to Give Bath to Cat for First Time
  1. Do cats like being petted?
  2. The benefits of massage for cats
  3. How to give a cat a relaxing massage
  4. Body language of cat during a massage
  5. Developing your cat massage

Do cats like being petted?

Before explaining how to give a cat a relaxing massage, we need to be clear that the vast majority of cats enjoy the caresses and pets we give them. Cats are domesticated animals. The relationship with humans they have developed retains some childish characteristics. For them, their human care givers are like mothers. The cuddles and affection we give them are not only willingly accepted, but actively sought after.

If we pay attention to our cat's behavior, we will realize that when they rub up against us, they usually follow the same pattern. They will often start with their head and then continue along their body until they reach the tail. This is because these areas when stimulate with petting or rubbing release pheromones from their glands which produce a relaxing effect. This pattern will help us to understand the best way to massage a cat so that they can feel the most comfortable and relaxed.

How to Give a Cat a Massage - Do cats like being petted?

The benefits of massage for cats

Giving a massage provides benefits not only for those receiving, but also those who are giving. A well-performed massage should be a time of well-being and relaxation. It works as a means to combat stress which is beneficial for all cats, but especially for those made vulnerable by age or disease.

Additionally, the relationship between caregiver and cat will be reinforced by this contact. Massaging should be an established practice as it is pleasant for both parties. An in-depth study released in 2009 shows that cat ownership has such a relaxing effect on human beings that it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease[1]. This is believed to be due to the drop in blood pressure which petting a cat induces. They are even being implemented in hospitals, medical centers and schools where the physical contact between animals and humans is encouraged.

Another beneficial effect of massage is that it allows us to observe our cat's body. Giving a cat a massage can help us detect early symptoms of certain diseases and checking for dermatological problems or parasitical infestations. Wounds, growths and bald patches (alopecia) can also be detected. Early detection of disease means their prognosis after a veterinary diagnosis is more likely to be good.

How to give a cat a relaxing massage

If we recall the way in which a cat approaches us for physical contact, we can help determine the important areas for petting them. These are the face, the head, the neck, the back and the tail, in the order which they present themselves to us.

To explain the best way to give a cat a massage, here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Wait for the cat to approach us or ensure they are in the mood for a massage.
  2. It is essential we have the time to dedicate to them for a relaxing massage. Stress, haste or nervousness on our part can be detected by the cat and will likely put them on edge.
  3. Find a place which is comfortable for both human and cat.
  4. Before touching them, establish contact with your voice by speaking calmly and affectionately.
  5. Once contact is established, we can begin by caressing the sides of their face, an area which will release pacifying pheromones to increase their well-being. We should start gently and only use the tips of our fingers to begin with.
  6. If the cat refuse contact at any point, stop and take it back up at a more suitable time. Respect is fundamental so don't enforce a massage or your relationship will likely suffer.
  7. After the face, pass your hand over their head and focus on the space behind the ears and their chin. Make small circles with the tips of your fingers, being careful not to go against the direction of their fur too much.
  8. Continue these movements on the neck and start to knead the sides of the neck. Don't press too hard, especially on their windpipe, but you can increase the pressure a little.
  9. Pass your open hand along their spine, going all the way form the nape of the neck to the base of the tail. You can also do this to their flanks, but be careful not to move your hand too close to their belly. This area is sensitive and touching it makes them feel vulnerable.
  10. Finally, pet them not too roughly along the tail.

The duration of the massage only needs to be between 5 and 10 minutes, always respecting the wishes of the cat as they will depend on the individual feline. The most important thing when massaging a cat is to learn what they like and don't like without pushing them too hard.

How to Give a Cat a Massage - How to give a cat a relaxing massage

Body language of cat during a massage

Besides explaining how to give a cat a massage, we have to know how to pay attention to the signals they give. This is because they communicate non-verbally and it is through understanding their body language that we can learn to better intimate what they are trying to say.

During a massage, you are likely to observe one or more of the following reactions:

  • Purring: this is one of the most characteristic sounds of cats and is one of the best signs they can use to show their contentedness, in this case due to the massage.
  • Drooling: some cats drool during moments of pleasure, so if we know out cat to be healthy and we see them hypersalivate, it should be a good sign.
  • ‘Kneading’: this is a movement cats make my extending and contracting their paws as if they are kneading the air. It is a remnant of their kittenhood as it is the movement they would make on their mother's belly to stimulate the release of milk. It is synonymous with feline well-being.
  • Folding ears: if our cat puts their paws over their head and folds their ears down onto it, they are displaying a stance of extreme comfort. They may be enjoying it so much they will attack us if we stop the movement.

Of course, if the cat is not enjoying the massage they will let you know also. This may be in the form of scratching or biting, or by simply getting up and leaving.

Developing your cat massage

Now that we know the fundamentals of how to give a cat a massage, you can step up your cat massage game by using accessories. These include special massage toys with textured sides or rollers with bumps to make it more enjoyable for the cat.

These massage devices act as part of the environmental enrichment of the cat. There are also different techniques and types of massage which you can give your pet, but most of them are simply variations on the same theme we have provided here.

How to Give a Cat a Massage - Developing your cat massage

If you want to read similar articles to How to Give a Cat a Massage, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.

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How to Give a Cat a Massage