A great way to make your cat purr his cares away is to massage him. You know how a good massage lightens your mood and kicks your cares to the curb? Well, it is the same for your cat. You should know a couple of things before you try it. Some cats do not like massages. Don’t worry: he will let you know. Just use your cat speak. Your cat will communicate his wishes to you if you only watch him. There are a few things which you need to avoid.
Do not touch his whiskers
Your cat’s whiskers are very sensitive. They use them for many things. As an example, damaged whiskers can make navigation hard in their surroundings. The least bit of touch (like if their food and/or water bowls are too small for them and their whiskers touch the sides) can cause pain and disorientation.
Do not squeeze
Remember, he is a cat, not a piece of fruit. It would be best if you had a soft touch. You would not squeeze a baby, so don’t squeeze your cat.
Do not massage him if you’re not relaxed
If you are tense, perturbed, rushed, etc, don’t try to massage your cat. Cats are very sensitive and can pick up on your moods. So, if you massage him while you are agitated, he will get agitated, too, and he will not get the full benefit of the massage. (Neither will you, for that matter.)
Do not interrupt him
If he is busy doing something, like grooming himself or sleeping, leave him alone. We all need a little privacy sometimes. He usually will be more receptive if he is relaxed and just laying at your feet (or wherever your cat lays). When he is happy to be with you, that’s the time to share the massage.
Do not massage him right after he eats
Wait about two hours to let his food digest.
Do not push him
If he doesn’t want it, then back off. Give him his space. He will let you know with his body language, how he feels at the moment. Use your cat speak.
Now, we got the don’ts out of the way, let’s dig into the dos.
1) Talk or sing to him to relax him. No one likes to be squealed at, especially when trying to relax.
2) Start with petting him in his favorite place. My cat likes to be scratched behind his ears. So, whether, be it a full body pet or a scratch under the chin, start there to help him relax. Apply gentle pressure. Too soft, and he may not feel the massage, and where’s the benefit in that. (You don’t have to use two hands, one is just fine.)
3) Use your whole hand for the body.
4) Next, the head. Using the palm of your hand, massage in slow, gentle circles.
5) With your fingertips, massage slowly, lightly around the ears. When you have finished the ears, move down to the neck and chin and massage with slow, gentle circles using your fingertips. (Do not press the neck). When the neck is done, then the cheeks and face. Don’t be concerned if he drools or looks a little daze. This tells you that you are on the right track.
6) Next, the forehead. Don’t forget the place just above the eyes. Use your fingertips to massage in circular motions. Remember: softness is the key here.
7) Spend a few seconds to pet your cat, from head to tail, as you would normally, then go back to the gentle touch for his head, body, and tail.
8) Massage the sides of his body, using your full hand. This should be a firm touch, but remember, do not squeeze.
9) The shoulders need some attention, too. It would be best if you first used gentle, circular motions, followed by a soft, but firm, rub down. Include his back and sides.
10) Now, go back to using the gentle circular motion to rub him from shoulders to tail. Be very careful around his tail. Some cat’s hips and tail are sensitive.
11) If your cat allows you to touch his belly, go ahead. Now is the time, since he is nice and relaxed. Caution: This area is very sensitive, so even if he will let you rub it, do not rub too hard. A very light touch with your fingertips is called for here. Do it while you are working another part of his body, for example, his shoulders.
12) The very last step of the massage is his tail. Like his whiskers, his tail is sensitive. Starting at the rump, use a slow, gentle touch until you reach the end of his tail. Then pet him as usual for a minute or two.
If he’s whips his tail to and fro, stop. He is probably overstimulated.
This may sound like a long process, but once you and your cat get into it, it seems to end too soon. For more info: Video on massaging your cat
We give our deepest thanks to:
Cat Behavior Associates