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How to Give Your Cat a Massage: 11 Expert Tips & FAQ

When we want to pamper and treat ourselves, we book a 45 or 60-minute massage with our favorite masseuse. But have you ever wondered what your cat could do to relax? You might be surprised to learn that cats can benefit from massages just as much as we humans can. A good massage can help calm down stressed-out kitties and can strengthen your bond, too. If you want to learn how to better connect with your cat while also allowing it to relax, you’ve come to the right place.

Please keep reading to find our tips on how to massage your kitty.

Click below to jump ahead:

divider-catclaw1 The 11 Tips to Give a Cat a Massage

1. Get in the Right State of Mind

No one wants to get a massage from someone angry or in a rush. The masseuse will be distracted by their own feelings and thoughts and not put their all into helping you feel better. This same rule applies when massaging your cat.

Do not start a massage when you’re in a hurry or feeling frustrated, stressed, or angry. Give yourself time to wind down and let your outside problems fall to the wayside for a few minutes. You don’t need to massage your cat for 60 minutes for it to reap the benefits of your touch. A few minutes of well-intentioned massage can do wonders for your kitty, so make sure you’re in a headspace where you can give your full attention.

woman hugging a cat
Image Credit: Alek_B, Pixabay
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2. Use Light Strokes

What type of pressure does your cat like when you pet it? Chances are it prefers light and soft touches that run the length of its body. Use this same style of touch during your massages. You might enjoy a deep tissue massage, but your cat probably won’t. If you think your cat needs a deeper massage, we recommend taking them to a professional.

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3. Keep It Short & Pay Attention to Body Language

Keep your massage sessions short, around five or 10 minutes, but also listen to what your cat is telling you. Let them go if it is trying to escape from you one minute into their massage. You don’t want to force a massage if your pet isn’t in the mood.

Stay alert and present throughout the massage so you can pick up on subtle body language cues. Your cat will tell you exactly how it feels about the massage if you pay close enough attention. You may notice purring, drooling, kneading, or folding ears if it’s really into it, or scratching, biting, growling, or fleeing if it’s not into the massage.

Cat laying on its back
Image Credit: Bolanu Teslaru Andrei, Pixabay
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4. Set the Mood

Find a place in your home that is quiet and distraction-free. You and your cat should both be comfortable in this room. Before you start massaging, establish contact with your voice by speaking calmly and affectionately.

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5. Begin With Pets and Effleurage

Simple strokes, like traditional pets, are typically the best way to start (and end) a massage. Use light to medium pressure to pet your cat from its head to the tail and down each limb. When you begin with long and light strokes, you can help your cat relax for the rest of the massage.

After a few moments of pets, move on to effleurage. This involves using a gliding stroke with your whole hand. Use medium pressure at this point. Effleurage will help your kitty relax further while warming up its muscles and stimulating blood circulation.

Stroking a cat
Image Credit: Nesolenaya Alexandra, Shutterstock
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6. Start at the Head

Start the massage by working around your cat’s head. Be gentle, and only use your fingertips to start with. Pat their head for a few moments and then move to the sweet spot: the ears. Move your fingers slowly around each, taking extra time here if your kitty enjoys scratches and rubs around the ears.

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7. Move to the Shoulders

After the ears and head have received a good rubbing, move down your cat’s body to the back of its neck and shoulder. Use your thumb’s fingertips to make slow circles around the shoulder blades. Repeat the circular motion at least ten times, but go longer if your cat has relaxed and entered a nirvana-like state. Next, knead the sides of the neck but be careful not to apply too much pressure on the windpipe.

Stroking a cat
Image Credit: Olga Visavi, Shutterstock
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8. Go for the Back

After working the shoulders and neck, begin stroking your cat’s back. Apply gentle pressure along the back and sides and move your fingertips in a circular motion. Pay extra attention to the upper back and tread carefully around the lower back and hips. These areas can be sensitive for some cats, so only massage there once if your cat has given you the go-ahead.

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9. Try the Belly

If your cat becomes relaxed enough, it might offer up its tummy. Hold your kitty with one hand and use the other to knead the belly skin very gently. If your cat is still in that nirvana headspace, you might even be able to use both hands to massage this area.

Not every cat enjoys a belly rub, so don’t force it if your cat isn’t into it. You probably already know without trying to massage it whether your kitty will go for a tummy rub, so use your best judgment when reaching this point of the massage.

cat owner belly rubbing her cat
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock
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10. Cup the Chest

While your kitty is still on its back, use one hand to cup its chest while the other supports its head. Rub your palm in a circular motion to help release any tension it may be holding in its chest. If your cat allows you, use your fingertips to massage the chest from the outside in.

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11. Don’t Forget the Appendages

Finish the massage by focusing on your cat’s appendages, which are the tail and paws.

Start at the base of the tail and work your way to the tip. Use a very light touch here, as the tail can be pretty sensitive for some cats. If your kitty isn’t sure what to think about the tail massage, you can try using your other hand to massage its head or ears simultaneously.

Finally, choose one paw to start with and place your thumb in the middle of the paw pad. Using a circular motion, slowly begin rubbing and applying gentle pressure before moving on to the next paw.

Cat's paw on a human hand
Image Credit: Counselling, Pixabay

Cat ball divider 1 Do Cats Really Need (or Enjoy) Massages?

Besides helping your cat feel great, massages can also improve its health and prolong its life. You can use the time you are massaging your pet to check on its skin and coat health and to feel for any lumps or irregularities. Massage therapy also releases endorphins and can promote toxin release, improve the range of motion, and boost blood circulation.

Therapeutic massages are a physical medicine technique that has inserted itself into pain management protocols for cats. This type of massage manipulates the body’s soft tissues, and each stroke serves a specific purpose for helping your kitty find relief from pain.

While therapeutic massages are best performed by trained individuals, you can still perform some massage elements at home. Not only do home massages provide some relief and relaxation for your cat, but they can also help strengthen your bond.

Is There Any Time I Shouldn’t Massage My Cat?

Massages should not be performed in areas of your cat’s body with open wounds or unstable fractures. You should refrain from massaging your pet if they are in a considerable amount of pain that is not yet controlled. Do not massage directly on top of areas with infections or places where your cat may have tumors. VCA Animal Hospitals also suggests treading carefully when massaging cats with blood clotting issues.

Important Considerations

While essential oils are commonly used in human massage therapies, your cat does not need them. In fact, many essential oils are toxic to cats. It is best to avoid them altogether!

divider-catclaw1 Final Thoughts

Massages aren’t just for humans anymore. Your kitty can benefit a lot from home or professional massages if you can get it to sit still long enough. Remember, even short bursts of massage can be helpful, but you should never force your cat to endure your touches if it’s not in the mood. If your cat is ill, you might want to speak to your vet before trying our massage techniques. They can provide you with insight into what massage methods will work best for your cat’s specific condition.

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Featured Image Credit: Ekaterina Kuzovkova, Shutterstock