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If you’ve lived with a cat for any length of time, you’ve probably had at least a few close calls between your foot and your feline.
But sometimes, it’s more than a close call and you accidentally step on your cat’s paw, tail, or even their torso.
Will your cat be okay or should you worry after accidentally stepping on them? First, take a breath, stay calm, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Calmly check your cat for any obvious injury both visually and by petting them all over. Pay close attention to any changes in behavior (especially changes in how your cat moves) and always consult your veterinarian if you’re ever unsure.
We’re going to take a closer look at what could happen when your cat is accidentally stepped on and what you need to watch for. But first, let’s get one important thing out of the way.
It’s Never A Bad Idea To Consult Your Veterinarian
While I’ve worked in the world of veterinary medicine for more than a decade I’m still far from a veterinarian and nothing in this article should be taken as medical or veterinary advice.
If you’re ever worried about your cat, for any reason, it’s never a bad idea to consult your veterinarian. That doesn’t mean you have to immediately drive up to your veterinarian’s office but a quick call will help you learn more about whether or not you need to go in at all.
In the world of medicine, it’s always better to play it safe.
Will My Cat Be Okay?
In most cases, stepping on your cat won’t cause any major problems and we’ll naturally retract our foot as soon as we feel our furry friend beneath us. Our cats will also be quick to move out of the way as soon as they realize what’s going on.
However, in the worst-case scenarios, stepping on your cat could cause major problems- especially in the case of injuries to your cat’s tail or torso. So while I’d love to give you a clear-cut answer, as to whether or not your cat will be okay, it’s going to depend on how hard you stepped on your cat and your cat’s overall health.
But that doesn’t mean you should freak out!
Instead, let’s look at 5 simple steps to follow after you’ve stepped on your cat.
Here’s What To Do After Accidentally Stepping On Your Cat
Step 1: How Much Weight Did You Put on Your Cat?
Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Did I just put all my weight on my cat or did I react in time?” Not only will this help you understand the potential for injury, but in most cases, you’ll probably find the answer reassuring as our reactions are generally quicker than we’d expect.
It’s rare that someone is able to accidentally put all their weight on a cat. Even if you’re wearing shoes, you’ll almost immediately realize that there’s a soft, furry friend below you. On top of that, most cats will vocalize as soon as they realize what’s happening causing you to jump back.
It’s also worth noting that just because your cat makes a loud noise doesn’t mean they’re hurt. They may simply be startled!
So take a breath and ask yourself, how hard did I really step on my cat?
Step 2: What Part of Your Cat Did You Step On?
You’re not always going to be able to tell exactly what part of your cat you stepped on. Oftentimes, the accident just happens too fast.
But, at least try to figure out which part you know you didn’t step on.
This will be an important part of step three when we start to examine our feline friend for any possible injury.
Step 3: Check and Pet Your Cat
Now it’s time for the two-part combo called the check and pet! There’s a chance your cat is a little freaked out and even if they aren’t injured they’re certainly surprised. So approach your cat slowly, give them some time to calm down, and start petting them gently.
Not only will petting help you and your kitty stay calm, but it will also give you a chance to find any sensitive areas or injuries. Pay close attention to any spots that you think you may have stepped on.
Make sure you stay calm throughout the check and pet. Your cat is going to read your body language and if you’re frantically petting your cat all over the place it’s going to be hard for you to get a good read on the situation.
You also want to make sure you’re thinking clearly and staying reasonable. For example, your cat is probably never going to be happy about you petting their feet so don’t expect them to suddenly allow you to pet their toes right after they’ve been stepped on!
Instead, pay attention to all the normal petting spots. If your cat seems reluctant or is pulling away before you can pet certain spots there may be a problem. You also want to pay close attention to how they’re walking around.
If there’s anything unusual or any areas that seem sensitive, it’s a good idea to give your cat a few minutes and then check them again.
Step 4: Continue Watching for Any Behavior Changes
Pay close attention to your cat over the next few hours. If there’s any kind of fracture, sprain, or significant internal injury you’ll know very quickly. These kinds of injuries will cause changes in your cat’s behavior including changes in the way they move.
Continue to practice the pet and check technique while staying calm and see if your cat is reacting to any specific areas. Again, most issues will show up immediately.
Step 5: Decide If You Need To Consult Your Veterinarian
If you’re seeing any changes in your cat’s behavior or a sensitivity to a specific area (that your cat normally wouldn’t be sensitive to) then it’s time to pick up the phone and contact your veterinarian.
Let them know everything that happened and what you’re seeing. They’ll talk you through the next steps and let you know if you should come in for an exam or not.
What Should I Look For After Accidentally Stepping On My Cat?
Accidents are stressful. Even more so when they involve our feline friends who can’t just let us know what hurts and what doesn’t.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific areas that commonly get stepped on and the signs we should expect to see from an injury.
What Could Happen If You Step On A Cat’s Paw?
Just like humans, cats have a series of small bones called digits in their paws. While these bones can break, you’d really have to put a lot of weight on your cat’s paw for that to happen.
What makes things a little harder is that cats are already not exactly excited about having their paws touched so it can be hard for even a veterinarian to assess paw sensitivity on an exam alone.
But if your cat is limping, avoiding the use of that paw or you see any swelling then it’s time to call the veterinarian. While these aren’t sure signs of a fracture, they do indicate an injury that’s severe enough a veterinarian should be involved.
What Could Happen If You Step on Cat’s Tail?
While the tail may seem like a pretty unimportant area at times, tail injuries can be extremely concerning. The anatomy of a cat’s tail is actually quite complex and includes as many as 21 bones, 6 distinct muscles, and a collection of extremely important nerves. Some of these nerves help control key functions like urination, defecation, and even the ability to move their hind limbs.
However, severe tail injuries involving the nerves happen more commonly at the base of the tail and require a good deal of force to cause. Getting stepped on is not a common cause for these injuries and it’s more likely to occur when cats get their tails stuck in a door or something similar.
More minor injuries, like a fracture that doesn’t involve significant nerves, can occur from a cat being stepped on and these would be more like to happen towards the end of the tail. While a fracture is still a painful and serious injury that requires a veterinarian to treat, the long-term outlook is good.
What Could Happen If You Step on Your Cat’s Torso?
Just like with humans, your cat’s torso houses their important internal organs. While the ribcage does a good job of protecting them, the full weight of a heavy human could be enough to cause serious damage.
However, this is quite rare! In most cases, accidents where cats get stepped on start when our feline friend runs around our feet. As result, most stepping-on cat accidents involve extremities like the tail and paws. While we could accidentally kick them while walking, our normal stride isn’t going to generate enough force to cause damage- at least in most cases.
Instead, for a cat’s torso to be stepped on, they would need to be laying down and even then it’s very unlikely that we’ll put all our weight down. We’ll naturally feel something under our feet and pull back before we put all our weight down. Even if we don’t know it’s our cat!
But is it possible to cause severe or life-threatening injury by accidentally stepping on a cat’s torso? Sadly, yes it is possible however it is very unlikely.
How Can You Make It Up To Your Cat?
Once you’ve found your cat to be injury-free, the next concern is how to move forward.
Will your cat forgive you for the accident or will they hold a grudge?
You should be relieved to know that your cat will forgive you for the accident- but they might be a little more careful where they sleep or when they’re walking around you. We’ve actually written an entire article on how to apologize to your cat which you can check out here.
The love (and food) you give your cat far outweighs a one-time accident but you can still make it up to your cat with extra pets, playtime, and by just having fun with your cat. You can also slow blink at your cat which the feline equivalent of saying “I love you”.
If you’re getting a slow blink back from your cat, it’s safe to say they’re over it so you should be too!
You can learn all about the slow blink in this very quick video from Chewy:
Accidents happen and while they’re always stressful they can be even more traumatizing when they involve our pets. A big part of this is because our pets can’t tell us if they’re hurt or let us know what they need. So not only are we stressed by the accident, but we also need to be good pet parents and figure out what our furry friends need.
Luckily, most accidents where cats get stepped on don’t cause serious injury. In most cases, it’s simply startling for both you and your cat. However, it’s also a good idea to walk through the 5 steps in this article and always consult your veterinarian if you’re ever unsure.