September 10, 2014 9:34 AM   Subscribe

So, my cat decided to jump into a burning pumpkin spice candle that was 1/2 melted wax

I'm taking her to the vet tomorrow for other reasons, so if there are any burns to attend to we will. She's putting full weight on the paw that sunk inches into wax, so I'm hoping that there are no attendant burns.

She smells to high heaven like a pumpkin spice latte. Her rear paw is just embalmed in wax. Tried washing it off, but of course that just cooled the wax into a pumpkin spice wax cast. She also created a blast radius of about a foot when she jumped into the candle, most of which went onto me and the company and the company's vital computer equipment, but some of it went on her.

Although I want to drink her when I smell her, I have a feeling, given how she's stretching out her embalmed foot from her, that the smell does not please her. I'm primarily worried about chemicals from the wax she might ingest in trying to get the stuff off of her.

A student of mine suggested peanut butter on the waxy paw, but that sounds like a horrible sit com plot.

Any ideas?

posted by angrycat to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I think a trip to the groomers might be your best bet.
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:38 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Lord, I would pay a groomer to deal with this (while you deal with the blast radius at home). They've done it before, I guarantee, and are not moved by feline rage. And there will be rage.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:39 AM on September 10, 2014 [28 favorites]

I think rubbing alcohol dissolves paraffin (candle) wax. That might help. I'm not sure if dipping your cat's foot in rubbing alcohol is practical either, though.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2014

Groomer. The wax will have to be melted with hot water or other source of heat and removed and I am quite sure you do not want to put yourself through that.

I wouldn't put baby oil or rubbing alcohol or anything on a cat because they are going to lick it off.

Do you have a cone of shame from a previous vet visit that you can use to prevent licking/eating?
posted by desjardins at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2014

To solve your home blast radius problem: get a scraper, a bunch of brown kraft paper (so like grocery store bags and such), and an iron. Scrape off as much wax as you can with the scraper. Put a piece of kraft paper down over the offending spot. Iron with low heat on top of the paper, moving it to a clean spot every so often. It'll absorb the wax.

To solve your cat problem I'd suggest either swizzling in a latte or sending to a professional to handle.
posted by phunniemee at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Warm washcloth-- you don't have to re-melt the wax, but heat will soften it. Not sure how well your cat will take to the treatment-- you might have to bundle her in a towel in the typical fashion of reluctant medical treatment.

Wrap the washcloth around the wax for a few seconds to let the heat soak in, and then start wiping/pulling.

I doubt there's burns, but if there are, they'll most likely be minor burns or increase in sensitivity to heat... which you'll be applying, so get ready for some resistance.

I tried googling whether rubbing alcohol dissolves wax, and mostly found lots of other people who also had heard that it does, but found nobody who has any certainty. Try it on some of the wax-splatter, or on your own skin.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2014

A hair dryer on medium heat will melt and blow away most candle wax, but I'm not sure I've ever met a cat that could stand to be around one.
posted by jamjam at 9:46 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Definitely trim away any waxy bits in her hair if you can, that is the simplest route for sure. The main thing I know of that dissolves wax (having had it in my own hair before) is that Goo Gone stuff, but I would absolutely not use that on the cat herself, just on other stuff that is now waxy.

When the candle is not lit and has not been lit for a while, is the wax hard/solid, or soft and malleable? If it's the former, you may have some luck cooling kitteh's paw with maybe an ice pack or some ice water if she can stand it and then brushing most of it off with an old soft toothbrush. But if it's a soft wax candle at room temp then cooling her feets won't make much of a difference, I think.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:53 AM on September 10, 2014

Unless you have the world's most stuporifically-tolerant-of-paw-being-futzed-with cat, I'm not sure anything's going to work here without a trip to the vet to get some ketamine on board. I suggest calling a vet for an opinion.
posted by Zed at 9:57 AM on September 10, 2014

When my cat did this (with a bright blue candle whose wax went everywhere...) I just pinned her down and cut out every single bit of wax with scissors, getting those tufts between the paws and everything. It wasn't exactly pleasant and she was a little patchy for a while, but that was nothing compared to the damage my carpets and walls sustained...
posted by cgg at 10:14 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would very much advise against grooming the cat yourself, unless you have experience in this area. It's suprrisingly easy to cut the cat's skin when you are trying to cut just the fur. I've seen it happen before, and it's not pretty.

Also, I think it's unlikely that the wax will harm the computer equipment. Wax doesn't conduct electricity very well, so it probably won't short-circuit anything. You might as well just leave it, unless it's easily scraped off the outside.
posted by alex1965 at 10:15 AM on September 10, 2014

I spend a lot of time in a histology lab, paraffin doesn't dissolve in any kind of alcohol. It does dissolve in orange oil, though I'm not sure how that would work for you. We use a purified version of the main ingredient (limonene) which isn't toxic exactly but is irritating, and probably not suitable for your cat. It would totally work though, heh.

I get wax on my clothes a lot. Warmth is your best bet assuming the wax has a low enough melting point (e.g. mine melts at 60degC, too hot for your cat). A warm flannel, medium heat hair dryer, running under the warm tap, all may move some. Try it out on the left-over candle first and see if it works. I've never been able to get wax out using any kind of oily stuff like peanut butter, but maybe if your wax is softer and just stuck in the fur it might help. You could always test it out on some of the left over candle too.

But first I'd just try and trim/scrape/peel as much off as possible because wax can often just kind of flake off when it's set. There will be residue and it may be matted in the fur but worth a quick try, see how much comes off. Then I'd try the warmth if the tests show it's worth it. Failing that I agree with Zed, the vet can sedate kitty then they'll be able to trim it off pretty easily, probably leaving a humorously bald foot afterwards.

I had a cat that used to regularly drag her tail and whiskers through candle flames and other burning things but the wax explosion is a new one to me.
posted by shelleycat at 10:17 AM on September 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

I don't think a cat would stand to get hot enough for wax removal. I think clipping and shaving is the way to go. Have you asked the vet if they can shave her leg when you're there tomorrow? I'm not sure if that would be more or less expensive than a groomer, but I don't think groomers normally shave legs, whereas vets sometimes do for surgical procedures.

Also, we need pics of your (presumably) angry cat, angrycat!
posted by lesli212 at 10:19 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

If she's not in obvious pain or chewing at the wax, the vet will probably be able to help tomorrow if you can't get all of it off.

(Her new nickname can be Miyagi: wax on, wax off.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:50 AM on September 10, 2014 [15 favorites]

My coworker had to de-wax his cat couple of years ago after she ran into the electrical cord for one of those melted-wax potpourri-type things and upset it all over herself.

He says:

1. A vet visit (which you've already scheduled) is called for to check for burns

2. If it's stuck to the skin: let the vet do it. And you do need to get it off the skin, so as to prevent infections.

3. If it's stuck to the fur, a hot cloth (test it on yourself first! if it's too hot for you, it's too hot for the cat) will melt the wax enough to moosh it around and pull it out, but you may need to resort to scissors

4. If the wax on something like the paw pads, you can wait for it to get cold and chip it off, but more fragile skin, like between the toes or on the ears, is hot-cloth-and-scissors or vet time

5. If the cat is burned, holding ice to the burn (for short periods of time, so as not to hurt the cat more) can, like in humans, make it feel a bit better.

He wishes you luck and sympathy, and notes that his cat's ears were burned, and the fur did eventually grow back, more-or-less. And that the cat refuses to go anywhere near the corner of the room where it happened.
posted by telophase at 10:58 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

When my cat did this (with a bright blue candle whose wax went everywhere...) I just pinned her down and cut out every single bit of wax with scissors, getting those tufts between the paws and everything. It wasn't exactly pleasant and she was a little patchy for a while, but that was nothing compared to the damage my carpets and walls sustained...

Please, please, please do not take scissors to your cat. It is very, very easy to cut their skin accidentally. Use clippers or pay a groomer to do this.
posted by almostmanda at 11:28 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend Wax Away if your local super market or Target or whathaveyou carries it. It was great at getting wax off hard to scrape (but non-fabric) solid surfaces when I burned a whole in my TV (which still worked! and lived with a plant on the hole the rest of its life). It's pretty oily so I didn't try it much on fabric (I didn't spill much on fabric) but it was great for furniture and floor. I don't remember the ingredients so I can say how likely it is to be pet-safe, but I can check on the bottle I have when I get home this evening if you like.

All that said, I join in the chorus of "let the vet do it" since you only need to wait a short while. Google everything in the candle - the wax itself isn't great for her, but probably isn't toxic. If you're super worried about her ingesting, E-collar her.

PS: PIX PLZ. (You don't have to. I know some people hate this request. But I like kitties and therefore would like to see your poor seasonal creature.)
posted by maryr at 12:23 PM on September 10, 2014

Just in case the vet asks: do you still have any kind of packaging/wrapper from the candle, with a list of ingredients the vet can check to be sure there's nothing toxic (unlikely as that is) in there?

And yes please: kitty pics!
posted by easily confused at 12:32 PM on September 10, 2014

Response by poster: The Wise Visage of Wax Cat

The Wax Cat Wax Paw

Will ask the vet tomorrow to shave and clip. As Wax Cat is currently on steroids that mess with her fur growth, Wax Cat may have a little shaved paw for quite a while. That's just an occupational hazard of the Wax Cat, I guess.
posted by angrycat at 1:01 PM on September 10, 2014 [14 favorites]

Yeah, looking at how the wax is stuck into the fur I think the vet will be the quickest way. Shaving is what I was imagining in my comment up there btw.

I used to have an old cat that didn't grow fur much because of steroids, a liver biopsy left most of her belly bare for about six months. Totally worth it for both health reasons and ongoing laughing at the poor kitty so I think you guys are in for a smaller version of the same.

Also, FWIW, that Wax Away stuff is made from Hydrotreated heavy naphtha (petroleum) (I found the MSDS by googling). I can see how it would be really great at dissolving wax but I wouldn't put it on a lovely cat like that.
posted by shelleycat at 1:08 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

The only non-heat or cold methods I know of for removing wax are mineral spirits, Goo Gone or a citrus-based cleaner like Citra-Solv. Every one of them has toxic ingredients, and I wouldn't apply them to a cat's paw because of the chance they might lick it off and ingest it afterwards.

If it were my cat, I'd cover my whole body with chain mail, then put them in a warm tub or sink, only filled a couple of inches. See if the warm water made the wax malleable. Then try to manipulate it off gently. Otherwise, I'd let the vet handle it.
posted by zarq at 1:10 PM on September 10, 2014

The chain mail step is of course, optional.
posted by zarq at 1:10 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, steroids can make the skin a bit thinner and more fragile along with the fur growth problems, so I'd double extra suggest waiting for the vet to deal with it. I bet she's shaking the paw and being awkward because it feels weird more than because it's really upsetting her.
posted by shelleycat at 1:11 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am loathe to say it, but I would not take your cat to a groomer to deal with potentially-injured/burned skin. I say that from having known a number of groomers, gentleness is not exactly their forte, speed and efficiency is. (For that reason, I would never take a pet to a groomer unless I was able to hang out and supervise while they groomed).
posted by nanook at 1:19 PM on September 10, 2014

FWIW, just as another data point, I have had great experiences with groomers who were amazingly gentle and left my cat whole and non-traumatized after some close clipping/shaving. So they definitely do exist.

I imagine your vet will be able to handle this, but if they recommend a groomer, they will probably be able to refer you to a specific one who will treat your kitty right.

Good luck!
posted by jessicapierce at 2:18 PM on September 10, 2014

So is the paw OK?
posted by maryr at 2:21 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes! Paw is good. Skin a tiny bit irritated, but vet was actually able to comb the wax off. In a separate room, so a) I didn't witness the dewaxing and b) hopefully wax cat will not associate me with same. Thanks for asking!
posted by angrycat at 5:34 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Now that this episode seems to have resolved, can I just derail just a tiny bit and say that I am really surprised no one has claimed "eponysterical" once in this thread. Are we slipping or is this just vigorous self-denial in the face of actual need?
posted by like_neon at 6:32 AM on September 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

More like the mods being awesome at deleting deraily comments.
posted by shelleycat at 8:16 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

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