Grooming, A Prerequisite for Therapeutic Massage for CatsSunday, July 10th, 2011
One of the first signs of sickness or disharmony in a cats internal environment is when the cat stops grooming themselves on a regular basis. Anyone who has been blessed by the presence of cats in their home knows that cats groom themselves frequently throughout the day. This is an instinct that is passed on from mother to child. Mothers immediately start licking their children and they make sure to lick the anus of their children to stimulate the anal reflex nerves so that the kittens will have a connection from mouth to anus along the gastrointestinal tube. One of the best things we can do to get a cat who is fickle about being massaged is to break out the grooming brush and let them sniff it until they start to rub up against the brush, signaling that they want to be groomed. There are many good grooming gloves and tools on the market. Some are cheap and fall apart really quickly. The clothe ones with little rubber nubs glued onto a cloth mitt will work just fine and are very cheap for those of you who can’t afford much. My favorite and my cats friends favorite tool is the KONG ZoomGroom for cats. You can get these for $7.49 at PetSmart. They are very flexible and sturdy and will probably last the life of the cat. One last little grooming tool is a small plastic flea comb which you can get at any pet store for a dollar. I generally start with the KONG tool because you can start gently with this and control the amount of drag on the hair and pressure you use on the cat. With older cats you will need to start very slowly and work with softer pressure, stroking from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. Using two KONG tools at once will put you cat friend into an very blissful state which is very unique to cats I think. I wish I could be in that state myself sometimes. Look for signs of the cat moving away from any area that you are grooming over. If the cat starts to react to any area by moving away or tightening up to the work, make a mental note of this. This is a sure sign that there is some pain in this area and we will want to investigate this later when we start the therapeutic part of the massage. Try to avoid this area if it hurts them or be very gentle over this area if they will tolerate it without a guarding response.The cat will probably guide you to areas that they want massaged more by moving into the brush or lying down and exposing the side they want you to work on, or pushing strongly up against the brush when you are stroking that area. Make sure you lighten up on the pressure when you work on their sides. The ribs are very fragile in the cat. They look like a medium sized fish bones in some cats and so we don’t want to use so much pressure that we damage a rib or bruise the tissue over the ribs. There is really no muscle to speak of over the ribs so please be careful here. Also while many cats love their belly groomed there are many cats that will scratch you if you try to groom them there or will respond by going into play mode, especially if they are young. If you watch cats play fighting with each other they are often going after the stomach. It is also better to switch to the plastic flea comb when working on the stomach and the limbs. After you have spent a lot of time grooming with the KONG tool then go to the plastic flea comb and move gentle over the body with the comb, making sure you hold the cat with one hand near the site where you are grooming so you can focus the pull of the comb in one area and make it easier for the cat to relax. If you take twenty minutes to do this every other day you will have a very relaxed and loving cat that will not be throwing up so many hairballs and you will have a flea less cat who will be healthy and happy for the rest of their life. You should end the session by stroking the cat from the head to the tip of the tail and from trunk to the toes with your hands. Linda Tellington calls this Noah’s March and in Swedish Massage we call this effleurage. The proven therapeutic action of this type of stroke, with the hands or the brush is to move blood and lymph fluid to the skin and underlying subcutaneous tissues, stimulation of the peripheral nervous system and propagation of parasympathetic signaling to all organs of the body, stimulation of endogenous endorphin production via pleasure signaling neurons in the brain, reduction of pain, and in Chinese medicine you will be clearing the cou li space and moving wei chi (defensive chi) so the the cat can resist invasions of the pathogenic factors better. You will also find doing this to be very therapeutic for yourself. It is a wonderful meditation in loving kindness and if you are attentive and gentle you will find yourself calming down and becoming more loving, kind, and attentive to others needs. This is the warm up stroke for all other types of massage strokes and is probably the most therapeutic type of massage stroke that you can do to improve your cat friends health and provide some preventive maintenance. A quick tune up for the entire system. In fact if you got this kind of stroking every other day you would be a much happier and more relaxed person. I will be covering pressure point and trigger point work for cats in the next blog so be sure to RSS feed this blog. I will also be adding some videos on the effleurage stroke for cats soon as well so you can see this work in action. Make sure you check out video gallery because we are loading some uncut recording of dog massage on our video page. I hope this blog finds you all in a happy state of mind and in good health. Until next time, I hope you will have a peaceful and joyful day.