Massage: The Cat’s Meow

Ask a Therapist

By Jonathan Rudinger

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Fall 2001.

Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

Q. It’s hard to miss the fact my cat loves a good belly rub. It makes me wonder if animals benefit from massage the same as we do?

A. “The benefits are very similar,” said Jonathan Rudinger, owner of PetMassage Training & Research Institute in Toledo, Ohio, and author of several pet massage books and videos. Increasing circulation throughout the animal, increasing flexibility, reducing arthritic discomfort, helping with post-surgical issues and alleviating nerve impingements are some of the aspects animals benefit from most, said Rudinger. But, just like humans, animals have “issues” which often need attention before they turn into physical manifestations. “In other types of bodywork, like neuromuscular work or Rolfing, our human bodies are brought back to deal with past issues stored in our tissues. It’s the same with animals. By creating a comfort zone, we can give them an opportunity to deal with their past issues too — issues of abuse, abandonment, grief, their pack status, all the issues we have.”

One of Rudinger’s favorite stories happened to his administrative assistant, whose large dog was terrified of loud noises. “Around the 4th of July, it’s a war zone here. Last year, she started giving massages at the first sign of fireworks, about a week before the holiday. Each day she offered the animal a comforting massage sequence.” On July 3, when the firecrackers started popping, the dog went over to the same place he had been receiving massage. On July 4, when the fireworks began, he walked over to the spot, took a deep breath and settled down on the massage pad. “He was able to take that sense of protection and safety from the massage sessions into another experience,” said Rudinger.

Many owners come to Rudinger to try alternative therapies before scheduling an expensive surgery. He said pet massage sessions are usually 30 minutes and can range from $25 to $75 each session.