What To Do If You Accidentally Step On Your Cat

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Fact checked by  Jackie Brown
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So, you’re puttering around in the kitchen trying to fix the kids a quick snack while shouting to your partner that you need to leave in five minutes.

At the same moment, your phone lights up to show your mum is calling, and the doorbell rings—the babysitter. You grab your phone off the side and answer it as you turn to rush to the front door.

In your hurry, you’ve accidentally stepped on your feline friend. Suddenly, there’s a loud meow followed by a succession of hisses and angry vocalizations, and not just from the cat!

Accidents happen, of course, especially when our lives are so busy and our furry family members seem to enjoy hanging around our feet rather than at eye level.

But, if your cat literally gets under your feet, how do you know if they’re injured or need veterinary help?

How Do You Check If Your Cat Is Okay?

If you’ve accidentally stepped on your cat, the chances are that they’ll be fine, albeit a bit shocked and put out. However, injuries can occur if you’re unlucky, and the severity will depend on what body part you stepped on and how much weight you applied before you realized it.

Therefore, checking your cat quickly for signs of any problems is essential. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

Are They Moving Normally?

Reasons why cats bite people

Cats may bite people for a variety of reasons,

If your cat is limping, they might just have some bruising, soreness, or a broken nail. However, if they continue to limp and won’t put any weight on that leg, there’s likely a fracture. If they’re dragging their back legs, this could also indicate some broken bones, but they might also have damage to their nerves or spine.

If they’re struggling to move at all, this could mean a serious injury, including broken bones, damaged nerves, or an internal injury.

Also Read: The 4 Key Benefits Of Chiropractic Care For Cats

Are They Breathing Normally?

It’s normal for your cat to be a bit shocked if you step on them. So, their breathing may get faster for a little while. However, if your feline friend’s breathing doesn’t settle, if it’s shallow or gaspy with more effort than usual, this could indicate damage to the lungs, a diaphragmatic hernia, or an internal bleed. It could also indicate pain, especially if there are broken bones or internal damage.

Also Read: Heavy Breathing Cat – The 3 Types Of Heavy Breathing And What They Mean

Are They Showing Normal Behavior?

Just as you wash your bedding regularly, be mindful of keeping your cat’s favorite blankets/beds cleaned regularly.

Your cat might want to find a hiding place after any period of trauma or fright, which can be expected. But, if your cat seems confused and disorientated, less responsive, or fails to return to their regular routine, this could be a sign of a more severe injury, especially if there was trauma to their head.

Watch out for whether they are eating from their food dish, drinking from their water bowl, and using their litter box as normal.

Are They Holding Their Tail In A Normal Position?

cat tail-pull injury

If your cat has a tail-pull injury or another tail injury, you might notice their tail is hanging limp.

A cat’s instincts tell them to run from danger, so if you step on them, they’ll try to get away if they can. Sadly, if you tread on their tail and they try to run, it doesn’t just risk damaging your cat’s nails. It can also cause a tail-pull injury. This is when the bones separate at the base of the tail, and the nerves become damaged.

If your cat has a tail-pull injury or another tail injury, you might notice their tail is hanging limp, and they’re unable to move it. Tail-pull injuries can also make it difficult for your cat to pee and poop, so it’s worth checking their litter box habits are normal.

Also Read: Best Litter Box For Multiple Cats

Are Their Gums Pink?

Your cat’s gums should usually be salmon pink. Pale pink or white gums could indicate internal bleeding or shock, so you should get out the cat carrier and seek urgent veterinary advice.

Are They Able To Urinate?

Stepping on your cat could rupture their bladder, meaning that urine leaks into their abdomen. On the other hand, traumatic nerve damage can also affect your cat’s ability to pass urine. Therefore, it’s best to keep an eye on their litter tray antics to ensure they’re okay.

Also Read: The 5 Best Carpet Cleaners For Cat Urine

When To Visit The Veterinarian

If your cat is unresponsive, has pale gums, is in breathing distress, or cannot move, you should call your veterinarian immediately for an emergency appointment. Similarly, if they have any other symptoms that could indicate an internal injury, such as vomiting or not passing urine, they need to see a vet.

If your cat cannot put any weight on one or more of their paws after 30 minutes, or if they cannot move their tail, you should also speak to your veterinarian urgently. On the other hand, if your cat is breathing normally and moving normally but seems anxious and is hiding more, they may just need more time to get over the trauma.

Also Read: 8 Ways To Help Your Shy and Fearful Cat Be Confident

If you’re unsure whether your furry friend needs a veterinarian, there’s no harm in calling one of the local veterinary offices for guidance. No doubt your veterinary surgery won’t mind the phone calls because they want to help to keep your pet safe.

How To Apologize To Your Cat

Will my cat forgive me for stepping on her tail

You can offer your cat treats or gently pet them after you accidentally step on their tail.

So, once you know that your four-legged friend is physically fine, how do you deal with the guilt and repair your relationship? After all, no pet parent wants to harm their fur baby. Thankfully, although your cat may seem wary for a little while, if you give them some time, your bond will be good as new.

Also Read: 5 Ways To Build A Stronger Bond With Your Cat

You might find your cat is more anxious and looks for somewhere to hide like dark places or small places away from human family members. You could try making them feel safe by making them a cozy, safe den to hide in.

Try approaching them calmly and quietly, but give them space if they want it. You can offer treats or gently pet them, talk to them soothingly, and even instigate playtime with their favorite toy. As long as you read their body language and let them lead the way, you should be able to make amends in no time.

Also Read: How To Apologize To A Cat


Cats love weaving in and out of our feet and rubbing against our legs to get our attention. But, when we’re rushing around, and they appear from nowhere, it can be a recipe for disaster.

If you accidentally step on your feline family member, try not to panic. Use the above information to assess for any damage and speak to your veterinarian about any concerns. Then, all you need to worry about is making it up to your purr-fect pal!

Also Read: How To Give A Cat A Bath

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I accidentally stepped on my cat’s paw?

Most of the time, if you step on your cat's paw, it doesn't cause serious damage. One of the reasons for this is that cats will make a deafening noise to alert you to what you're doing (well, wouldn't you?). However, there's no denying that humans are much heavier than cats, and sadly broken bones do happen. If your cat doesn't put any weight on their foot even half an hour after the incident, you should take them to the veterinarian to be checked.

Can stepping on a cat's tail break it?

Stepping on a cat's tail can sometimes break it. However, usually, the bones separate rather than fracture. If your cat has a tail injury, you might notice a kink in their tail, or the tail seems floppy and limp. It's essential to get a tail injury checked by a veterinarian because it can cause problems with passing urine and feces.

What happens if I step on my cat’s stomach?

Stepping on a cat’s stomach could cause damage to organs like the liver, kidneys, spleen, bladder, or intestines. It could also cause a rupture of the diaphragm or abdominal muscles and internal bleeding. If you've trodden on your cat's stomach and they're acting unwell in any way, you should take them to the veterinarian immediately. Your cat may need surgical exploration to assess for and fix any internal damage. Of course, surgeries like this can be expensive, and when unexpected traumas occur it highlights the importance of pet insurance.

How do you know if your cat has internal bleeding?

If your cat has internal bleeding, they may seem weak, wobbly, or lethargic, and their gums will be pale pink or white. If the bleed is severe, they might be less responsive and seem very unwell.

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About Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVETMED MRCVS

Hannah graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, UK in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but as the small animal hospital became busier, she focussed on small animals. Hannah is an expert on cat behavior and nutrition.