Small Animal Massage - How Bodywork can Help Cats and Dogs Feel Better

The first time I intentionally massaged my cat was about 1 year prior to learning the specifics of small animal massage. I had taken a course focused on neurofascial release for humans and the instructor commented that it was also a very effective method for pets. You can easily see when an animal’s fascia is restricted when their fur is laying in wavy lines (that aren’t normal for them), they’re showing extra wrinkles (common in pets wearing collars), their skin is very dry and flaky or they have a new streak of grey fur.

I used the technique on my cat’s lower back near her tail - an area where she was particularly sensitive and disliked touch. She was hesitant at first, but tolerated it for a few minutes. She got up and walked away and I noticed her actually walking with a bit more ease (at age 15). She came back within a few minutes and “asked” for more! She continued asking for the massage every day for a few weeks. (Her way of asking was to stand next to me and wiggle her butt and low back until I placed my hand on the spot, and then start purring very loudly when I engaged her fascia to release it!) I noticed her fur became silkier after the first treatment, her dandruff fully cleared up after a few sessions and she no longer seemed sensitive to be touched in her low back! Even now at age 18, she still loves massage and is more willing to move and try jumping after treatments. That experience led me to become certified in Small Animal Massage so I could provide this therapy for many pets.

After a couple of years of practicing on a pretty limited schedule (my human clients still need me too!) I’ve realized that my passion is primarily in working with geriatric pets, and animals nearing end of life. I’ve said goodbye to two cats since 2016, and was grateful to be able to make them a bit more comfortable in their final days with energy work and gentle intentional bodywork. Aging pets with arthritis and mobility issues are also a joy to watch as they relax with decreased pain, and often start moving a bit more like they used to before they had pain.

The benefits of pet massage are pretty similar as humans. It can help to reduce stress, particularly if they have experienced a change in the home, or are often alone and anxious. It can reduce pain from arthritis and injury. It can be a wonderful treat for an animal who loves attention and maybe doesn’t get as much anymore (as is often the case when a new baby comes into the house).

If you’re still wondering why anyone would have their pet massaged, here are the most common reasons and benefits:

General Benefits

  • Decrease pain, discomfort and stiffness

  • Improve immune response (before/after travel or surgery)

  • Relieve anxiety, hyperactivity or depression

  • Promote healthy skin and coat

Senior/Geriatric Pets

  • Ease discomfort caused by chronic conditions

  • Help with mobility issues, increase ease of movement

  • Increase joint flexibility and Range of Motion

  • Decrease pain caused by arthritis

  • Aid digestion, help with constipation

  • Provide comfort and relief during End of Life care

Puppies/Growing Pets

  • Help to socialize and decrease anxiety around touch and new people

  • Reduce aches and pains associated with rapid growth of bones and muscles

  • Improve body awareness and promote healthy postural and movement habits

Pets recovering from Injury or Surgery

  • Facilitate quicker healing

  • Stimulate weak muscles

  • Promote healthy scar tissue formation

Book your session for your senior pet to see how it can benefit them. For more information, read my post on What to Expect in an Animal Massage.

Though I now focus on elderly pets, I recommend Love Bug Pet Massage to anyone looking for wellness massage for a younger animal, or post-injury therapeutic sessions. Sarah works exclusively with pets, so she is also more available if you want to schedule regular sessions.