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What Is a Cat Massage Therapist? How Do I Become One?

Animal massage therapy involves hands-on techniques to apply animal anatomy and physiology knowledge to improve pets’ physical well-being, like your cat. Animal massage therapists tend to specialize in a specific species since a horse’s physiology and anatomy differ from that of a cat.

Cat massage therapy is designed to heal injuries, improve your pet’s muscular function, promote relaxation, increase your pet’s circulation, and even enhance the range of motion for your pet’s overall mobility. If you are interested in learning more about cat massage therapy or becoming an animal massage therapist, keep reading!

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What Is Cat Massage Therapy?

Cat massage therapy uses physical touch and the manipulation of muscles and surrounding tissue to benefit the overall health of your furry friend’s body. Massage therapy can be used in addition to other treatments or as part of physical therapy.

Manipulating muscle tissues during a massage can allow your cat to release endorphins as a natural painkiller, release toxins, improve oxygen flow, improve motion and overall flexibility, and increase your cat’s circulation.

In addition, regular massage therapy can decrease the build-up of scar tissue. Massages also allow a trained professional to notice any changes in your cat’s body at earlier stages. The development of a tumor, lesion, or other abnormality is more detectable with regular massages.

cat owner belly rubbing her cat
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock
Types of cat massage therapy include:
  • Passive joint movement involving moving and stretching joints for increased flexibility and range of motion
  • Touch and pressure point techniques to increase circulation and soothe muscles
  • Kneading techniques to manipulate muscles and stimulate deep tissue

Massage therapy is not a substitute for veterinary care but is a particularly useful tool in rehabilitative therapy for pets.

How Feline Massage Works

Like us, our cats can experience arthritis, joint problems, torn and over-extended muscles, injuries, and surgery. Massage therapy can increase your cat’s flexibility and reduce their overall physical and mental stress levels.

Increased flexibility from massage therapy can prevent further injuries and relax any muscle strain. Cats that repeatedly do the same action, like jumping to high places in your home, use and abuse their muscles frequently.

Muscles affect each other like dominos; they work in conjunction with each other, and when one fails, the others strain and have an increased risk of failing too. A muscle in your cat’s rear leg that has suffered trauma or strain will affect your cat’s muscles through its back, abdomen, front legs, and neck.

A muscle strain will change how your cat walks, stands, plays, and even eats. Muscle irritations can change your cat’s behavior. Massaging can help heal muscle trauma and strengthen the muscles in question while releasing tension.

Domestic cat lying on owner's lap
Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

Massage Therapy Procedure in Cats

A certified massage therapist will first perform a physical exam on your cat. This allows them to give an assessment and observe your cat’s movement, gait, and reactions. An evaluation like this allows the massage therapist to determine what is causing your cat’s stress and pain and the most effective treatment for those individual stressors.

If your cat suffers from a condition that won’t benefit from massage therapy, the practitioner will give you the recommended course of action. In some cases, massage therapy is not appropriate or beneficial for your cat, and the therapist may refuse.

On average, a massage therapy session will last anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Depending on your cat’s individual needs, sessions may be multiple times a week or at a reduced frequency as they progress through their treatment. During a massage session, the veterinary therapist will monitor any signs of distress and adjust techniques accordingly.

bengal cat and vet
Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock
Various massage techniques include:
  • Passive touch: Uses no pressure or actual movement and is designed to calm your cat. This provides warmth, reassurance, and a calming sensation by placing the hand in one spot for around a minute.
  • Effleurage: This circular motion improves circulation and warms the body tissue. It is most often used at the beginning and the end of a massage over the entire body.
  • Kneading: As the most common association with a massage, kneading provides different levels of stimulation to the body. Depending on whether the relief is needed at the surface level or beyond the superficial tissue, the pressure used during this technique will vary. Superficial kneading commonly features skin rolling and pinching to stimulate the surface, while deep kneading stimulates deeper muscle tissues. Kneading helps release toxins and stressors stored within the body and improves circulation.
  • Passive joint movement and stretching: This commonly involves manipulating joints into specific positions to provide pain relief, encourage flexibility, and improve overall mobility.
  • Tellington Touch Method: A specific massage method featuring circular motions, sliding, and lifting used together with other physical therapy methods. This is designed to address different physical and behavioral issues.

How To Become a Cat Massage Therapist

If a career in helping animals through touch and physical therapy interests you, check out some of this information below. The path of becoming a cat massage therapist will vary from person to person, and specific requirements will depend on where you live and any previous experience or education.

A degree in biology is highly recommended if you plan on being a therapist for felines. Success in this field revolves around a solid knowledge of animal physiology and anatomy. Muscle groups and their functions are especially important.

Massage of the cat's hind leg
Image Credit: Ekaterina Kuzovkova, Shutterstock

At a minimum, anyone seeking to become a cat massage therapist must have a two-year associate degree in animal massage therapy from an accredited institution. A massage therapy degree plus supporting coursework or a subsequent degree in animal sciences will double your chances.

The typical coursework for a potential massage therapist includes animal anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, hands-on clinicals, massage assessments, and an exam-based certification from the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage.

While it is possible to meet these requirements via interning and volunteering, most professional cat massage therapists complete at least one certificate training program. In some states, this certificate proof of training is required. We recommend checking with your state’s local veterinary boards and health departments for your state-specific requirements.

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Final Thoughts

Becoming a cat massage therapist is only suitable for some people, just as a massage is only suitable for some cats. Massage therapy can aggravate certain conditions, and a certified veterinary therapist will be open with you on the best course of action for your cat. Cat massage therapy is helpful as a form of rehabilitative treatment as directed by your veterinarian.

Massage therapy from a trained veterinary therapist can relieve stress and pain for your cat. It also will aid them in rebuilding their flexibility and mobility, especially after surgery or injury. Massage therapy can decrease surgery recovery time and overall recovery time from a traumatic injury or event.

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Featured Image Credit: Engin Akyurt, Pexels

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