Einstein’s Stove

D. E. Larsen, DVM

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. “Einstein’s quote came to mind every fall in Sweet Home. The story was always the same.

   “Sally, what do we have going on with Ralph today?” I asked. 

   Ralph was a large tabby cat about 6 years old. He was a neutered male, and he had the run of the house. Plus, he had a cat door that allowed him to come and as he pleased.

   Ralph was sort of a favorite patient of mine. He had the same name and a similar appearance to our first cat, which we lost to feline leukemia.

  “I have no idea, Doc,” Sally said. “All of a sudden, he is just lying around. It is not like Ralph to hardly get up for his dinner. He has only eaten a couple of bites in the last three days. When he does get up, it looks like he is walking on marbles or something.”

   “Well, let’s get a look at him,” I said as I rubbed Ralph on his head. Ralph raised his head and pushed back against my hand. He still showed some interest in the little things he enjoyed.

   Ralph’s temperature was slightly elevated, but his vital signs and clinical exam were normal. Normal, that is until I rolled him over onto his back. Virtually all of Ralph’s digital pads were blistered, including his large carpal pads of both front feet.

   “Sally, do you have a wood stove?” I asked.

   “Oh, yes,” Sally said. “And Ralph loves it. This summer, I kept his favorite plant on it all summer long. It became Ralph’s favorite spot for his afternoon nap. He would curl up around his plant and sleep. It was so cute. I took a few pictures of him.”

  “And when it turned cold last weekend, I would guess George built you a roaring fire in it,” I said.

  “Oh, yes,” Sally said. “There is nothing like a big fire to warm the house on a cold morning. George was up early on Saturday morning and built a large fire. We sat in front of it with our morning coffee, and the kids huddled around us when they finally got up. I love it!”

   “And later in the morning, I would guess that Ralph jumped up there for his nap,” I said.

  Sally looked at me with an expression of surprise that quickly changed to concern.

   “Oh, no!” Sally said. “Do you think that is what is wrong with Ralph?”

   “If we look at Ralph’s footpads, they are almost all blistered,” I said. “On the top of a hot stove, it only takes a second to cause such a burn. I would guess that Ralph landed on the stovetop and jumped off as fast as he could. It was just not fast enough to avoid some serious burns on his feet.”

   “Is there anything we can do to help him now?” Sally asked.

   “We can clean these up and wrap them for a few days,” I said. “Depending on how they come along, we might have to change the wraps a time or two. That, and antibiotics and some tincture of time and Ralph will return to his old self.”


    Ralph healed quickly, and after a couple of wrap changes at three-day intervals, he was pretty much good to go.

    “I think we can do without his wraps now,” I said. “But I think you should keep his cat door locked for another week or so. And make sure you shoo him away from the stove.”

    “Ralph feels so much better,” Sally said. “He thanks you, and I thank you. But Ralph so wants to go outside. He stands in front of his cat door and meows while looking at me. That door has never been locked before. I feel so guilty for all of this. I just can believe that I set him up for such an injury.

“Don’t punish yourself too much, Sally,” I said. “This is an injury I often see this time of the year. I see cats in the fall, almost always from a wood stove. And I see dogs in the summer from the hot pavement.”

“I won’t happen again in our house,” Sally said.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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