by Sandra Murphy
Although the method of massage and results can be similar to that for dogs, cats have their own rules about how they are touched. “Every massage must be individualized,” says Katie Mehrtens, owner of The Right Spot Pet Massage, near Chicago, and a nationally certified small animal massage therapist. “Cats are typically more sensitive to touch than dogs, and can become overstimulated. I am hyperaware of the cat’s reactions, and often give them more breaks to avoid stress,” she says.
“If your cat doesn’t like to be touched, you just haven’t figured out the best moves yet,” advises Maryjean Ballner, a massage therapist in Santa Barbara, California. “Common mistakes include rubbing, instead of caressing, and going too fast. Felines get the reputation they’re difficult. Pay attention to the basics.”
“Although many bones and muscles in cats and dogs have the same names and locations, they may not be identical in physical appearance or function,” Mehrtens says. “A cat’s skeleton is slender, with lean, fluid muscles designed for leaping distances with stealth and agility. They’re likely to experience less wear and tear on joints than dogs.”
Ballner offers tips to let the cat be the teacher as to what works best:
- Get down to their level.
- Approach at shoulder height, not the top of the head.
- Caress using full palms, not just fingertips. Slower is safe, enjoyable and desirable.
- Caress under the chin and around the cheeks using finger pads and full palms or the flat area between the knuckles.
- Focus totally on the cat for four minutes. Make it routine.
- Voice soft, soothing, low-tone phrases. Not baby talk; maybe repeating, “Oh, you good boy, good boy.”
Susi Rosinski, a certified feline, canine and equine massage therapist and owner of Ancient Far East Healing Arts, in Tonawanda, New York, offers, “Most of my [feline] clients have joint pain or back mobility difficulties. Working on legs and joints after they’re fully relaxed helps them, as well as being safer for me, as I slowly add pressure to the areas where they need it most.”
“For four minutes a day, cat massage is therapeutic, whether it’s for you or the cat,” says Ballner.
Connect with freelance writer Sandra Murphy at StLouisFreelanceWriter@mindspring.com.