It isn't every day that you meet a cat massage therapist. Jennifer Streit, who is licensed as a massage practioner with a specialization in small animal massage, offer insights about how massage can help your cat.
About Jennifer Streit
LoveToKnow (LTK): Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions for our readers, Jennifer. Tell us about your growing up years. Did you always love animals?
Jennifer Streit (Jen): Yes. My family had a cat when I was born, and we had cats throughout my childhood. When I was ten, I got a cat of my very own. He was a Siamese and I named him Simba. My brother and I had rabbits, chickens and hamsters. When I was in my late 30s I became guardian of Sammy a Golden Retriever, and my love affair with dogs began.
LTK: When did you decide that you wanted to get into small animal massage therapy?
Jen: I inherited a Dachshund, Buddy, who had herniated a disc in his lower spine. Buddy couldn't use his hind legs. He had surgery, and it was while he was rehabilitating with massage and hydrotherapy that I decided to change careers.
Cat Massage Therapist Interview
About Small Animal Massage Therapy
LTK: What are the benefits of massage therapy for cats?
Jen: Massage benefits a cat's digestive system, skin and coat. It increases flexibility of muscles and joints, calms anxious cats, relieves stress and pain, and it helps the animal rehabilitate after surgeries.
LTK: What is one of the most common reasons cat owners bring their pets to you?
Jen: I see a lot of cats that are arthritic due to age or injury. I am currently working with a cat that was walking with her knees bent due to arthritis. She has increased flexibility now and is able to extend her legs. Constipation is another concern that massage helps. One owner would leave me calls after I left the massage session saying that her cat had a poop after I left. I loved getting those calls because my work helped! I see cats that have been hit by cars and are getting arthritic and stiff as they age.
Early Detection and Healing
LTK: How can massage help detect health problems in cats?
Jen: I sometimes find lumps when I am massaging, or I notice that the cat's gait is off. Since I am tuned in and have studied anatomy, I sometimes see or find things those guardians don't notice. When I do, I recommend that they see their vet. I like showing guardians how to massage so that they can become familiar with their cat's body and will notice if something is different. Massage is a bonding experience for the cat and guardian.
LTK: You also offer some Reiki healing with your massages. Can you tell us a little more about this and how it would work with cats?
Jen: Reiki is an ancient Japanese healing method. Reiki is life force energy. As a Reiki master, I am a channel for this energy. I direct the energy to the cat with my hands by touching the cat, or I offer healing from a distance or just over his body if he won't let me touch him . The cats I work with have responded very well to Reiki.
More About Massage Therapy
LTK: Do you have owners bring their cats to you, or do you go to where the cat lives?
Jen: To date I have always gone to where the cat lives because most seem more comfortable in their own environment.
LTK: What has been your biggest massage therapy success story with one of your feline clients?
Jen: I think the kitty I mentioned above. It was as an afterthought that I began treating her. I was at the home to work on the two Dachshunds. Her guardian told me she had a cat that couldn't straighten her legs when she walked. She brought the cat to me, and I began working. During the first session, the cat told me when she was done when she got up and walked away. To my surprise, she came back for more. Now she sits in my lap while I work on her.
I have one more story about a kitty with feline leukemia. She went into the bathroom during the first session, so the guardian sat on the toilet and held her; I go to where the cat is comfortable. During subsequent sessions, she let me massage her while she laid on the couch. It was an honor to massage her the last day of her life; she really enjoyed massage.
LTK: What happens if you get a cat that is very skittish, and the massage isn't going well?
Jen: I reevaluate my approach; maybe I need to slow down and ground myself. If that doesn't work, I will stop the massage and begin the Reiki energy. One cat I worked on wouldn't let me touch her, but she loved the energy. I'd hold my hands about ¼ inch from her body. Another cat that didn't want massage would let me do Reiki, but I had to do it from three feet away.
LTK: Are you trying any new methods or techniques with cats?
Jen: I've started doing lymphatic drainage on cats. It is not a new technique, but it's one I use frequently with dogs. It gives the cat's immune system a boost, and it is especially helpful before and after surgery (e.g. teeth cleaning).
LTK: Anything else you'd like to add?
Jen: I have the best career in the world. I feel blessed to be working with these wonderful beings. I learn so much from them. I love cats and would have them around all the time, except Dachshunds like to chase cats.
LTK would like to extend a huge thank you to Jennifer Streit for all of her helpful information about how massage can benefit our pets. You can learn more about Jennifer's business, Hands to Paws Small Animal Massage, by visiting her at HandstoPawsAnimalassage.com.