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Touching, petting, and stroking a cat can stimulate the release of chemicals called cytokines, which in turn signal the brain to release natural painkilling chemicals called endorphins. Cats may show their pleasure during massage by purring and gently kneading their paws.
Massage therapy may have similar benefits for cats as it has for humans, including preventative measures and as a solution for pain the pet might be enduring. Cat massage may be used to calm an anxious animal. Cat massages may also lower the blood pressure of the owner, acting as a relaxation technique for both parties. Cat massage is useful in breeding familiarity and intimacy between the owner and a feline.
Massaging the cat may also allow the owner to look for abnormalities that might appear on the cat's skin and in finding areas of tenderness or swelling that could be the signs of a serious condition.
Massage can increase the mobility and flexibility in cats who suffer from arthritis. It may also be an alternative way to hasten the rehabilitation of a cat that has undergone surgery. Massage therapy may have a positive impact on the cats' digestive system and their coat and skin.
Massage should not be performed over open wounds, around unstable fractures, or when a cat is experiencing pain that is not yet appropriately controlled. Massage should be applied with caution in cats with blood-clotting problems. Do not massage directly over tumors.
Stroke the cat, checking for skin abnormalities or parasites of any kind. Owners should consider the likes and dislikes of their cat during the entire massage. Cats should not be forced into having massages. A common place to start is behind the ears, as cats may be more receptive to receiving affection in this area. Areas where the cat has shown an antipathy toward being petted should be avoided. For example, if the cat does not like to have its stomach petted the owner should not attempt to massage this area.
Pet owners are advised to apply gentle massages to their cats, and if they wish to give their pet a deeper massage they should have a professional demonstrate proper technique for the owner to learn and apply at home.
Effleurage and friction are both good techniques in massaging cats. After the cat has shown it is relaxed, the owners may start to pet it from the head to the tail, by using their open and relaxed hand. This is the effleurage technique. While practicing this movement, owners can look for abnormalities such as lumps or bumps. The effleurage stroke is helpful in stimulating blood circulation and warming up the tissue. Circular friction may be performed down the cat's body by using one's fingertip to draw small circles on its skin, including the tail.
Maryjean Ballner created a cat massage instructional book and VHS in the 1990s. A video blog website called Everything Is Terrible! took footage from Ballner's cat massage VHS and created an edited version with highlights from the video. The edited version was then uploaded to YouTube in 2009 by user WrongMan and has received over 4 million views to date. David Letterman interviewed Ballner in 2009 following the viral reception of the YouTube video.
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