close up of a badass tabby cat snarling at an unseen foe

Accidentally Stepped On Cat – What Should I Do?

It is an easy thing to do, especially in the dark when you’re half asleep or if you have one of those cats that just constantly dance around your feet. Accidentally stepping on a cat can be one of those sickening moments. They either run off scolding you and hide or worse, don’t run off!

In those moments you usually feel immense guilt even though it was just an accident. Here is what to do if you accidentally stepped on your cat :

Check For Obvious Immediate Damage 

I stepped on my cat, what should I do? Pretty straightforward, but the first thing you should do if you accidentally stepped on your cat is check for clear and obvious damage.

I am not suggesting you grab them and manipulate their limbs – if they are hurt you are likely to get slashed or bitten! Simply give them a gentle, visual once over. 

You are looking for cuts, lumps, bumps, and possible breaks. Don’t manipulate joints or poke and prod. 

If you find small cuts and abrasions these can usually be tended to at home. They will need cleaning and you will have to keep a regular eye on them to make sure they heal naturally without issue.

Swelling or lumps and bumps can be resolved, if they are just soft tissue injuries, with ice packs. A 15-minute ice pack on the area twice a day should help the swelling reduce without a visit to the vet.

It is worth confining your cat whilst the swelling reduces just to aid recovery and ensure they don’t try to do too much before they are healed.

orange tabby cat crouching about to slap an incoming hand

See If They Will Walk

If you have given them the visual once over and they appear to be shaken but otherwise fine it is worth seeing if they will walk. Of course, by this stage, they may have already dashed off into hiding! If not, this is what you are looking for and considering :

If you stepped on your cat’s paw does your cat have a limp – Have they acquired a limp from your accident? How bad is the limp? Can you identify the damaged limb, are they putting weight on the limb whilst walking or just whilst standing?

Are they keeping the weight completely off the limb in question? If they are keeping the weight completely off the limb in question then this could be serious and definitely needs checking out by a vet.

Will your cat not stand or walk at all? If they won’t walk it is serious and needs professional help. Just for reference, a cat will not even attempt to walk if a leg is broken or a joint is dislocated!

A minor limp may resolve over a few days as tenderness subsides, try to keep your cat subdued, and rested to allow for some recuperation and healing.

A major limp where they can put weight on, or failure to walk at all requires immediate veterinary attention.

a black and white long haired stubby manx kitten outdoors

Accidentally Stepped On A Cat’s Tail?

Accidentally stepping on a cat’s tail or trapping a tail in a door is slightly different from accidentally stepping on a cat’s paw or limb.

You have to be careful with tails and tail trauma as the tail contains a lot of nerves that can affect urination and defecation. As a rough rule of thumb if your cat can’t wag its tail after you have stepped on it or if the tail hangs limp you should take them to see a vet to make sure you haven’t seriously damaged the cat.

Generally speaking, if you stood on the tail nearer to the tip, the tail is likely to heal by itself without intervention. When you step on the tail nearer the base, that is when serious damage that needs veterinary care is inflicted. 

Tail trauma is a tricky situation and most vets will likely let the tail repair itself naturally – they will provide painkillers and anti-inflammatories to aid the process. Where a bad break has occurred a vet may opt for surgery.

Either way, tail trauma is going to mean keeping your cat confined for a period to let things naturally heal. 

close up of a tabby cat eating from a stainless steel bowl

Get Them Eating

A quick treat or a helping of their favorite food is a good way to make up with them after you have done your cat such a large disservice as treading on them!

But, it also tells you whether they have potentially suffered from any internal damage as well as mental stress.

A cat that has done internal damage is unlikely to have an appetite if they have some sort of gut or internal pain. You should monitor your cat over the next few days to make sure they are eating and drinking, as well as moving normally. 

A cat that does not eat regularly is a cat with problems and a cat not eating at all, especially for more than 24 hours is in a life-threatening situation – even if they are acting normal.

Just How Bad Is It?

So, if you have accidentally stepped on your cat, we have identified what you should do first up assuming they have not run off into hiding. Just to round things up, these are the bad things you can’t or shouldn’t think can be fixed at home after you stepped on your cat. This is when you need to get your cat to a vet :

Not eating – your cat may just be in mental distress from pain but could be refusing to eat due to internal issues, either way, a cat that doesn’t eat has a big problem and if this lasts for more than a day then they need veterinary attention.

Not using a limb but especially not walking at all – Either of these outcomes suggests your cat has been really damaged and needs help. A cat that won’t walk at all is likely to have a broken limb or a dislocation and may need surgery.

Clear pain when checked – a bit of complaining is one thing but an utter transformation of character into a hyper-aggressive state tells you your cat is in a bad way and needs help.

If your cat is usually placid but is in so much pain that they feel the need to hiss or swipe at you then they are bad. Get them checked out – they are probably underplaying the pain as they trust you…

Not using the litter tray – Not defecating or urinating is serious as is relieving themselves outside the litter box following a moment of being stepped on. Either way, this needs veterinary attention.

If you have stepped on a tail your cat could have nerve damage in the hip or tail area. If you stepped on the hip area you may have damaged the bladder or nerves in the area.

Tail hanging limp if stepped on – This one is a clear problem that is not going to sort itself out. Get your cat to a vet and make sure there is no nerve damage.

In these instances get to a vet – they will be able to carry out a full exam, X-rays, and blood tests to identify any serious problems and be able to offer pain relief and anti-inflammatories that can help reduce swelling and get your cat back on the right track if they don’t need more serious treatment like surgery. 

red and white cymric bobtail cat being picked up

Can You Kill A Cat By Stepping On It? 

Yes, you can kill a cat by stepping on it – although it is unlikely as most cats can move pretty sharpish when they need to and their frame is so supple they can usually escape really bad damage with even a slight warning of impending danger!

Kittens are particularly vulnerable as they are small, slower to move, and less aware of the dangers the world presents. But even a full-grown cat can suffer life-threatening injuries if you accidentally step on your cat.