How to Give Your Pet a Massage

Massage is proven to have many health benefits for people and pets. It improves range of motion, increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to all cells in the body and helps to flush out toxins. Massage has even been shown to help treat depression and anxiety.

In addition, massage is a great way to spend some quality time with your pet. It can enhance your relationship and let them know you love them. It also gives you a chance to check for ticks, fleas, lumps or other potential health concerns.

A good massage can be very simple and only take a few minutes. Or you can try some different moves and take a bit longer. Either way, these are some suggestions you can try with your pet today.

Rabbit massage

How to Start

1. Find a comfortable place to massage your pet. Make sure they arenít facing a wall or feel trapped in any way.

2. Take a few moments to relax yourself and bring your full focus to your pet.

3. Start by speaking to your pet in a soothing tone. Tell them what youíre going to do, repeat an endearing phrase or sing them a song. The words arenít important, hearing your calm voice will help your pet to relax.

4. Most pets appreciate offering your hand to sniff before actually touching them. This gives them the opportunity to accept or refuse your approach.

5. Begin your massage at the shoulders. Starting with the top of the head or face can be perceived as a threat, even by animals who know you well.

6. Keep your movements very slow. Stroke down your petís back and count how long it takes. Then repeat the stroke in twice the amount of time. For example, if it took you a count of four the first time, count to eight the second time.

7. Repeat each movement a few times to help your pet become familiar with the process. Familiarity often brings greater acceptance and relaxation.

8. Watch your petís response. Reactions like partially closing their eyes, moving into your hands as you touch them or a relaxed body posture, are all good signs theyíre enjoying the massage.

Cat chin rub

Basic Techniques

Itís best to experiment with many different ways of touching your pet to see what they like the most. Over time, youíll learn how to give a great massage tailored perfectly for them.

These are a few basic massage techniques to get started.

1. Effleurage (Stroking)

The two main types of effleurage are light and deep stroking. Both should be done very slowly. With very light pressure, run your hands over an area on your petís body. Use your entire hand or hands. Each stroke should be long and continuous. Avoid any short, choppy movements.

After a few minutes of light stroking, gently deepen your pressure. Press deeply when you stroke in the direction towards your petís heart and lighten your pressure as you stroke away from the heart.

Dog petrisage

Petrisage

2. Petrisage (Kneading)

You can use the palms or heels of your hands for this technique or use your fingertips. Gently pull an area of muscle tissue away from the bones on your petís body and rub it between your hands or fingertips. This helps relieve muscle tension and it should not hurt.

3. Tapotement (Tapping)

Lightly tap an area on your petís body. You can do this with the sides of one or both hands or cup your hands and tap with your fingertips. This can feel good on tight, muscular areas of the body. Some animals like this touch, but others may find it irritating. Try it lightly at first and stop if it seems to annoy your pet.

4. Friction

Friction doesnít involve any significant movement. Apply pressure with one or two finger tips to bony prominences, such as the pelvic bones, shoulder, vertebrae or knee caps. Then make very small circles with your fingertips, but stay in one spot for a while before moving on to another.

Related: 8 Natural Relaxation Techniques for Your Dog

Neck massage guinea pig

A Few Safety Precautions

Never use force. What you might think is a light touch can feel like brute force to your pet. If your pet is squirming away from you, crying or showing other signs the massage is not comfortable, stop immediately.

Never touch or press on your petís belly. This is an intimate and sensitive place for most animals that is typically off limits.

Make sure youíre in a good mood. If youíre having a bad day, your pet will know. Wait until youíre feeling better to offer your pet a massage. Then you can both enjoy the experience.

Donít use creams, oils or lotions. These donít mix well with fur, and the scents of many products can be unpleasant for animals.

Never pull ears, fur, tail or whiskers. Even if you do this lightly and playfully, your pet will hate it.

Never massage an aggressive animal. Donít assume touch will instantly calm an animal down. If youíre getting warning signs from an animal to back off, take them seriously.

Do All Pets Like Massage?

Cats, dogs and other furry animals may be the first to come to mind when you consider pet massage. But you can try it with other pets as well and see how they like it.

Large pets, such as horses and potbellied pigs, may enjoy a good massage.

And one owner of a blood parrot cichlid discovered his pet fish loves massage. Check out his cute video below.

Related at Care2

93 comments

Daniel N
Daniel N1 months ago

Thank you

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I1 months ago

My Terrier loves belly rubs! Thanks for sharing these good tips!

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Roslyn M
Roslyn M1 months ago

Good ideas, thanks.

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Glennis W
Glennis W1 months ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W1 months ago

Very informative Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W1 months ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

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Greta H
Greta H1 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Myla D
Myla D2 months ago

Message is blissful so why wouldn’t our animals love it too. I had read that dogs have many nerves in their ears (not inside -the flappy ear skin) so I began slowly massaging my pitttys ears and they loved it. So soothing for them and me too. They’ll yawn and eye kiss u. Try it.

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Teresa A
Teresa Antela2 months ago

Thank you for posting. My pets love to be massaged as well as I am...

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Connie O
Connie O2 months ago

When I was attending massage school, my mother's cat always came to me for a massage. He was my practice animal!

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