close up of a grey cats planted open paw with claws fully extended

I Stepped On Cat’s Paw!

I stepped on my cat’s paw – what should I do? First off, don’t panic. These things happen, especially with cats that have a tendency to get under feet! First off, observe how your cat moves. Ascertain whether they are in pain and then make a plan of action from there. 

Read on to find out more…

I Accidentally Stepped On My Cats Paw

It is not unusual for cat guardians to accidentally step on their cat’s paws. The little blighters tend to make it very easy – either moving around your feet at dinner time or being in the wrong spot in the bedroom at night time. Either way, rest assured it is often just one of those things that happen!

a person touching the main pad of a tabby cats paw unsheathing claws

So what should you do? First off observe for a short while. If your cat is seemingly unaffected after the shock of the incident has occurred and seems to walk ok then no harm has been done – put the incident down to one of those things. 

If your cat is limping but is actually putting some weight down on the foot then give them a few hours to see if the situation resolves itself. Within 12-24 hrs if they are walking fine then all is most likely well.

If your cat is limping but is in pain – complaining to touch, limping but trying to avoid putting the foot down – take them to a vet

If your cat won’t put weight on the paw – take them to a vet. 

If the cat is moaning in pain and won’t put its paw down – take them to a vet. 

Basically, if your cat is in obvious pain and is avoiding putting weight on the paw it needs to be professionally checked out. 

Your vet will be able to give your cat both pain relief and an anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling. They will carry out a physical exam to determine if bones are broken, a dislocation has occurred or a movement test to see if a tendon is damaged. If serious bone or joint damage is suspected they can confirm with an x-ray and treat surgically or through the use of appropriate dressings.

The prime point is to get your cat out of pain as fast as possible. You want them to eat and drink properly. Pain can cause issues with this and a relatively simple problem can escalate into a much more serious issue if left unattended – cats that don’t eat or drink become fragile real quick!

Here are some FAQs that can help you if you have stepped on your cat’s paw.

a tabby cat with arched back brushing against a pair of leg and wrapping their tail around legs

What To Do If My Cat Is Limping But Not Crying

Go into a holding pattern and see what develops. If they are eating fine, drinking, socializing, not hiding, and are otherwise ok then the swelling may reduce over 24 hours and your cat should be ok. Crying identifies pain and pain is what you need to act on.

How To Tell If A Cat Is In Pain

If your cat cries out when they try to touch the paw down. When the cat cries out or acts with unusual aggression to the touch of the damaged area. When your cat acts abnormally like not eating, hiding, not drinking, suddenly become very still or vulnerable. In all these instances your cat is probably in pain. 

Cats are so good at hiding pain they may be silent but just not eat or drink – be alive to any changes in behavior no matter how small as these are often your cues that the cat is in pain or discomfort.

How To Tell If A Cats Paw Is Broken

A cat with broken bones or dislocated joints in the legs and feet will be in so much discomfort it simply will not put the paw or leg down. They may be visibly and behaviorally ok in every other aspect of their being – but they won’t touch down or put weight on that limb in any way.

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

Can A Cat Walk On A Broken Paw

No, a cat won’t walk on a broken paw or leg or a dislocated paw joint, ankle, or elbow. They will hop along keeping their paw off the ground.

How Do I Know If My Cat Has Sprained A Paw

A sprained paw will cause limping, swelling, and pain. In fact, the symptoms are so similar to those of broken bones and dislocations that you probably won’t be able to tell without a vet examining the paw. Basically, the advice is any obvious pain requires a vet visit, and any limping without pain and your cat acting normally in every other way should be monitored for 24 hours. If there is no improvement in the limp after 24hours go to the vet.

How Do You Treat An Injured Paw On A Cat

With regard to a cat that has had its paw stepped on, the only treatment you can do at home is to monitor your cat and hope the bruising reduces and everything goes back to normal in a day or so. 

If your cat is in pain and/or not touching the paw down they need pain relief and vet treatment. There are no over-the-counter pain relief medications that you can safely administer to your cat. 

In these instances, your vet will administer drugs to reduce pain and swelling immediately. They will get your cat comfortable. Then they will physically examine your cat’s paw and leg. They will check for breaks, dislocations, and movement issues. 

If a break or dislocation is suspected they will probably x-ray the paw to confirm the damage and extent of the damage. At that point, they will decide how to rectify the damage. 

Dislocation may just require sedation of the cat and manipulation of the joint, bone breakages may need surgery or simply bandages with splints. Likewise, sprains may need dressings for protection to allow rest and healing.

close up of a cats paw

How Long Does It Take For A Cat’s Paw To Heal

If you have done no serious damage your cat should recover from a limp or heavy bruising in 24-48 hours. If you have sprained your cat’s paw by treading on it then recovery is probably going to take a minimum of two weeks. If you have fractured bones in your cat’s paw then you expect recovery to take 4-6 weeks.  A dislocation may take from 3 weeks – to 2 months to make good. 

Can A Cats Paw Heal Itself

In theory a bruised, sprained, or even broken cat’s paw can heal itself. But, when serious damage has been done, even if the paw heals itself it may heal incorrectly and render the paw ineffective. 

A dislocation won’t heal itself at all and your cat will probably be in pain, go off their food and then all sorts of bad outcomes become likely. 

A fracture may heal but heal misaligned and cause movement issues and all sorts of other issues.

Basically serious damage identified by pain for the cat needs professional help – a vet exam.

close up of a pair of cats front paws

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Cat’s Broken Paw

Obviously, this depends on the damage to the cat’s paw and where you are located. But as a set of  ballpark numbers this is what you might be looking at :

Physical exam $50 – $150

X-Ray $150 – $250

Short Hospitalization/wound treatment or repair $600 – $1700

Surgery $1500 – $5000

Most of the time, if you stood on your cat’s paw accidentally, you might just be looking at a proportion of those costs. You might need an exam, x-ray, and repair but no surgery… 

Do Cats Remember If You Accidentally Hurt Them?

Your cat probably will remember the incident but most likely won’t hold a grudge and assume you did it on purpose – they kind of know what an accident is most of the time! Your cat is most likely to avoid the situation arising by staying away from your feet having learned a nasty lesson. They will probably still love you so long as you have showered them with well-meaning affection after the incident!

Final Thoughts

I stepped on my cat’s paw once and we were fortunate to get away lightly. I hope the same happens for you and your cat! If your cat is in pain jump on the situation quickly – you don’t want them to stop eating or be in pain longer than they have to be. Most of the time your cat will be ok after the shock of the moment and you will have nothing to worry about – these things happen!