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September 2000


by (Livin' La Vida) Mocha

<rub> "puurrrrrr" <rub> <rub>

English Translation:

Since humans cannot speak fluent meow, the best way to communicate with cats is through touch. And the best way to touch is through massage. (Petting is too passe!)

Animal behaviorists, veterinarians, breeders, and shelter workers agree that when properly performed, the power of touch delivers many therapeutic benefits. Daily massage enables owners to detect fleas or ticks for early treatment, or to find cuts or suspicious lumps that may be early signs of cancer. Early detection leads to a faster diagnosis, and hopefully a better prognosis. In addition to preventative measures, massage plays a role in helping to alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthrits. Massage also strengthens the human-animal bond, helps curb aggression, and improves a cat's sociability with people and animals.

Regularly massaged cats become accustomed to being handled. It can take the stress out of combing & brushing, nail trimming, car trips, vet visits, and breed shows for both the cat and the owner.

Experts advise cat owners to learn the correct techniques before attempting to massage their cats. Newcomers should start with a basic massage stroke known as "effluerage". It's a french word that means "to flow or glide" or "skim the surface." Direction is vital in this technique. Effluerage is always performed toward the heart in the direction of the venous blood flow. For example, on a cat's legs you would want to work from the toes toward the knees and hips.

Performed properly massages can trigger eye winking and/or purring pleasure. Improperly, it can startle and possible even harm your cat. Here are some tips for newcomers:

Approach kitty slowly and speak in a soothing tone
Avoid "s" sounding words and speak softly. Hissing sounds seem threatening to a cat
Let kitty pick the time and place
Bring your hand up toward kitty's chin and give it time to smell and accept it
Use clean hands
Make slow motions with your hands and never use your feet
Pay attention to kitty's feedback signs
Repeat a technique kitty likes
Look for fleas, ticks, scratches, swellings, or lumps and alert your vet right away if cetain conditions continue

Press too deeply, you could harm kitty
Massage your cat when you feel stressed or hurried. Kitty reads your body's cues
Force a massage on a cat
Try to substitute message for a medical treatment for conditions such as arthritis. Let it compliment the care plan devised by your vet.

Here are the 6 basic hand massage positions that work most effectively on cats:

1) Palms up: Your palm faces toward the ceiling
2) Palms down: Your palm faces the ground
3) Horizontal: Your palm faces sideways along your cat with fingertips pointing towards its spine
4) Vertical: Your palm faces lengthwise along your cat with fingertips pointing towards kitty's head
5) Cupping: Your palm faces up and your linked fingers form a curved position that rests naturally on kitty's head or chin
6) Horseshoe: Curve your four linked fingers with thumb apart to form a C horizontally or a U vertically

Before starting, first practice these 6 motions on a pillow or stuffed toy cat:

1) Go with the glide: A straight, flowing, continuous motion. It usually moves from the top of the head, down the back, to the tail.
2) Create circles: Move your fingertips in clockwise (or counterclockwise) motions that are the diameters of half dollars.
3) Do the wave: Make side-to-side rocking strokes with an open palm and flat fingers. Mimic windshield wiper movements.
4) Focus on flicking: Pretend you are lightly brushing imaginary crumbs off a table and you've got the idea behind this motion. You can flick with one, two, or three fingers.
5) Here's the real-rub: Move along kitty's body slowly, exerting featherlight, light, and mild pressures.
6) Heed the knead: A gentle caress using the flicking motion of your palm and all five fingers. Ideal motion to work the spine area.

Here are some good resources you may wish to purchase:


Cat Massage: A Whiskers-To-Tail Guide to Your Cat's Ultimate PettingExperience, by Maryjean Ballner (1997; St. Martin's Press; $10.95)

How To Massage Your Cat, by Alice May Brock (1992; Chronicle Books; $8.95)

Massage Your Cat, by Jane Buckle, illustrated by Ron Young (1996; IDG Books; $9.95).


Your Cat Wants A Massage, hosted by Maryjean Ballner and Champion (1999; tape Worm Studios; $29.95)