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Massaging a Cat: A How-To Guide

It’s no secret that my fluffy boy Yoda is the center of my world, and I know that — like me — many cat lovers are excited to seek out new ways of showing our kitties just how much they mean to us. Enter cat massage therapy!

The ultimate at-home spa experience to shower our whiskery friends with the extra affection they deserve.  

If you’ve never considered massaging a cat, you’re not alone. It’s understandably an odd mental image at first! But a cat massage can actually offer our furry buddies heaps of surprising (and practical) benefits. 

Which is why in this ultimate how-to guide, we’re going to share with you exactly how taking the time to relax and connect with your cat through gentle massage can benefit both of you physically, mentally and emotionally too!  

Here’s a snapshot of what you’re going to discover today: 

  • The different areas of the cat’s body you can massage
  • The various cat massage techniques
  • When *not* to massage your cat 
  • Examples of times when it’s better to find a qualified cat masseuse

How Do You Massage a Cat?

So now you know exactly how massage can be wonderful for your kitty…what are the steps to massage a cat?

There’s a variety of different cat massage techniques you can try, however here’s the best way to introduce your kitty to the wonderful world of massage:

Step One: Create a calm environment

  • Choose a space which is relaxed
  • Remove any noise or distractions
  • Ensure your cat is in a laid back mood* (i.e. not grooming themselves/eating/sleeping/otherwise occupied)
  • Choose a comfortable place to begin the massage (e.g. a yoga mat, towel or a dedicated cat massage blanket)

*It’s best not to grab or force your cat to come closer to you either. Instead, wait for them to come to you 

Step Two: Start slowly

  • Pay attention to your cat’s body language
  • Start with gentle, soft strokes around the head
  • Shift to the ears – rotating fingers slowly around each ear
  • Continue this for a minute or two

Step Three: Move along the body

  • Move your touch along their body, continuing with gentle, soft strokes
  • Introduce a second hand to stroke along their body
  • Try singing or speaking softly to your cat, making soothing sounds

Step Four: Finish the massage

  • Conclude the massage with a few firm pats along the body
  • With slightly firmer pressure, stroke your cat from head to tail
  • If they enjoy it, plant a final kiss on their forehead
Woman massaging a white cat's body

For a first massage, try limiting the session between five to ten minutes. Remember you don’t always need to wait until your kitty is lying down either, as it might even be easier if they’re sitting or standing to reach different parts of their body.

You can start at the top and focus first on their head and face, before moving on to their shoulders, back, belly, chest — even their tail, if they enjoy it.

Remember not to touch anywhere your cat is uncomfortable with, as the purpose of this exercise is to help them feel chilled out and relaxed…not stressed out and angry! 

Try to repeat massage motions a maximum of six times before moving on to the next area of the body. This will help them to experience the full benefit of the motion.

What Are the Benefits of Massaging Your Cat?  

Let’s begin by looking at how massaging a cat can help boost your kitty mind, body and soul…

Just like humans, massaging a cat can create feelings of calm, reducing stress and anxiety, whilst helping to promote a heightened sense of wellbeing in your feline sidekick.

But that’s not all.

Cat massage therapy can also be beneficial for:

  • Improving circulation
  • Improving range of motion/flexibility
  • Promoting healing caused by physical trauma
  • Preventing future injury
  • Soothing pain related to arthritis, joint problems and stiffness
  • Early detection of bumps/injuries or wounds
  • Improving digestion
  • Supporting speed of surgery recovery
  • Improving sleep quality

And it can likewise reduce:

  • Inflammation
  • Strain
  • Toxic compounds in body and organs
  • Feelings of nervousness or aggression
Cat at spa day

Another huge benefit is giving you focused quality time with your fluffy kitty, helping your bond to grow even deeper and more loving.

Simply by dedicating some time on a daily or regular basis to show your kitty this form of TLC, this can help strengthen your relationship. 

(Just think, massage could be a fantastic thing to do if you’ve adopted a new cat into your family and want to slowly nurture feelings of closeness and trust!) 

Amazingly, massaging a cat is reported to even have mental and emotional benefits for us hoomans too — lowering our blood pressure, reducing stress and again promoting a sense of relaxation and calm. In our eyes, that’s a win-win! 

The Different Types of Massaging a Cat

You may be interested in cat massage for a number of reasons, whether it’s because your kitty is experiencing some form of discomfort or pain, or you simply want to pamper your pet.

Typically, the following massage techniques can be used on a cat:

TechniqueHow it Works
EffleurageUsed at the beginning of a massage treatment, helping to familiarize cats with touch, involving a series of light strokes to warm muscle before deep tissue work. A soothing, stroking movement
Passive touchNo movement or pressure from hands. Simply hold hand in place for 30 to 90 seconds to warm tissue and calm the cat
KneadingCan be superficial or deep, used to increase circulation and flow, and is applied to the muscle but not the bone
TaptomentMay be used all over the body and head, applied three times for a maximum 30 seconds, with light and quick movements and the final movement not finishing on the cat 
StrokingApplied very lightly and slowly, typically to conclude a massage treatment
Passive joint movementInvolves motion physical therapy and focuses on positioning. Special care should be afforded to prevent trauma to the joint and tissue

Here’s a few specific areas of your cat’s body you can massage — and don’t forget that you know your cat best, so you’ll know better as to what type of massage they’ll enjoy most! 

Cat face massage

Typically, most kitties prefer to be touched from the neck up, however this might be a sensitive area for some cats. If they’re comfortable, try the following steps:

  • Gently stroke your cat under the chin
  • Soothe your fingers across their neck, being careful not to press hard
  • Move your touch across their forehead, using small circular strokes
  • Move your touch along the bridge of their nose 
  • Return your fingers to smooth their brow, being careful of the eye area and whiskers
  • And repeat! 

Head massage for cats

Another popular form of massage for kitties, although it can again depend on your cat’s own receptiveness to being touched here. Warning: if they enjoy it, this massage may cause lots of purring, drooling and head nudges!

  • Use your fingertips to slowly stroke the top of your cat’s head, using a circular motion
  • Move your touch behind their ears and slowly circle your fingers
  • Draw your fingers down to the spot where their neck meets their spine
  • Return to the top of the head, applying gentle pressure
  • And repeat!

(Yoda especially seems to love this one!)

Cat paw massage

Your cat may be less receptive to this type of massage, as it’s a particularly sensitive part of the body or they’re just not used to being touched here. However still keep this one in mind, as it can be useful getting your cat used to their paws being touched, if for example they ever need their claws trimmed. Here are some steps you can try:

  • Gently lift your cat’s paw
  • Place your thumb in the center of the pad
  • Move your thumb in a slow, soothing circular motion
  • Apply gentle pressure with each circular motion
  • Move onto the next paw, and repeat!
Cat getting a massage with a brush

There’s even some nifty tools you can use to massage your cat, like this handheld pet massager or this ultra-soft silicone cat brush.

Or for those more adventurous cat moms and dads, you might want to give this Massage Cat Tongue Brush a try (you’d definitely be earning the committed pet parent badge with this gadget!)

If you’d love to learn more about the art of cat massage, why not brush up on your knowledge and check out these books too:

When Shouldn’t You Massage a Cat?

There are, of course, going to be times when massaging a cat is a big no-go. 

The most obvious sign that you shouldn’t engage in this activity is your kitty’s body language. If your cat is displaying the following signals, we’d recommend backing off and giving them some space:

  • Flat/turned back ears
  • Hissing or spitting
  • Yowling or howling
  • Back arched
  • Leaning or moving away when approached

You also shouldn’t massage your cat if they have or are experiencing:

  • A fever
  • Shock
  • An infection
  • An open wound
  • A fracture
  • A rash
  • Any severe lumps
  • A blood clot

Also, as a side note, if your cat has been diagnosed with an immune disease, massage has not been reported to offer any significant benefits for treating this.

However, if your cat is suffering from an injury and you’re interested in exploring holistic therapies to help ease their pain, you may want to check out our article on Homeopathic Remedies For Cat Wounds.

Other times you shouldn’t massage your cat include:

  • If they’ve recently eaten (leave it a minimum of two hours after a meal)
  • If they’re sleeping
  • If they’re grooming 
  • If they’re otherwise occupied
  • If they refuse to move closer to you
  • Immediately after an excitable play session

If you’re still unsure whether to give your cat a massage or aren’t feeling totally confident, then the next option could be to find an experienced cat masseuse and book in for a consultation with them…

Woman massaging gray cat's paw and brushing legs

How To Find a Cat Masseuse

You can definitely try massaging your cat at home, but for anything more intense, complex or advanced — such as a cat constipation massage or a cat arthritis massage — you may be better served finding a qualified cat masseuse.

You can try find a local cat masseuse by searching the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage, which hosts a database of certified practitioners and also offers advice on how to become qualified as a cat masseuse — if that takes your fancy! 

Additionally, you can try checking in with a trusted veterinarian as to whether they offer alternative therapies such as massage and acupuncture. 

A veterinarian or qualified cat masseuse will first offer you an initial consultation to assess your kitty’s specific needs, before suggesting a specific massage treatment to best aid their aches and pains.

So if in serious doubt? Our advice is to reach out to an expert! 

Final Thoughts

There you have it — the ultimate how-to guide for massaging your cat at home. 

As we’ve mentioned, the benefits of massaging your cat are countless; not only can it help both you and your kitty to feel more chilled out and relaxed with one another, it can also help for practical reasons like pain relief and to improve your cat’s mobility (especially beneficial for those older ladies and gents!)

Remember, if your cat is new to massage it’s best to start off with slow, short sessions before building up to longer and more intense treatments. It’s also important to keep an eye on your kitty’s body language, as they’ll be sure to let you know when they want you to stop…or to keep going!   

Are you excited to try massaging your cat? Have you tried it in the past? Let us know, as we’d love to hear about whether your kitty paw-sitively loved the experience!