I don't really believe that fate stalks us, ready to punish us when tempted by over-optimistic words. And yet. On Saturday evening as the Systems Administrator put a hot saucepan with left-over meat sauce in it to the back of the kitchen worktop to cool down before putting it in the fridge I remarked that the cats seemed to have got the idea about avoiding hot things. An hour or so later as we sat in the study and Mr Fidget lay on the window sill, there was a sudden blur of motion as Mr Fidget leaped from the direction of the wood burning stove and ran out of the room. We found him in the corridor, whimpering, and realised that he must have jumped from the window sill on to the top of the lit stove.
Whimpering is not good in a cat. They are normally very stoic animals who endure injuries in silence. Mr Fidget did not want to let us look at his feet, but we managed to ascertain that the pads were not actually raw. Beyond that it was difficult to tell exactly how much damage he'd done himself. I thought that we should really run his feet under cold water for five minutes to take the heat out of the burns, as you would for a human, except that we would have terrified him and he would have fought like mad, so that wasn't a realistic treatment option. When we put him down he scuttled into the garden, followed by the other cats, but consented to be lured back into the house by biscuits, following the others. I shut the glass door and said that we were having a litter tray and not letting him out with the risk of him slinking away to hide under a bush in the dark until he had calmed down and we had some more idea how badly he was hurt.
By bedtime his pads looked rather too shiny but they still had skin on them. I was afraid he was in a lot of pain which no quantity of Dreamies could make up for, but it didn't seem quite bad enough to track down an emergency vet on a Saturday night. We decided that now the initial panic was over he wouldn't be going anywhere and opened the hall door, to the relief of the other cats. By the next day he seemed more cheerful and was walking normally, and he spent the morning lying on the kitchen table and lounging on his favourite pouffe. Then in the afternoon he went outside, so the SA told me when I got back from the concert, stayed out for some time and came back limping, and went to lie down in the dark in the Systems Administrator's bathroom.
Cats curling up by themselves in darkened rooms is not a good sign either, and we agreed that he would have to go to the vet in the morning. I set the alarm clock so that I'd be up in time to call the surgery at eight when it opened, eight being seven in body clock time thanks to the clocks changing that day. In fact I didn't get through to the receptionists until twenty to nine, but that was my own fault for being too impatient. When I rang at eight on the dot I got a recorded message telling me to press one for emergencies and two for repeat prescriptions, then each time I pressed redial I got the same recorded voice thanking me for calling the surgery, and assumed that they must be busy signing in pets for surgery and still weren't answering the phone. Only when I finally listened again beyond the thanks for calling did I discover that after the introduction the rest of the message was now different, and pressing one would get me through to speak to a receptionist.
We got an appointment for twenty past ten. In the meantime the glass door remained shut so that Mr Fidget wouldn't choose to disappear before we had to go out. To my relief the other cats took this change of routine in their stride, Mr Cool mewing to be let in from the garden instead of taking one look at the closed door, suspecting a trap and disappearing for the rest of the morning, which is what I was afraid he would do.
It was lucky that Colchester's traffic was having a good day. Mr Fidget doesn't seem to mind being in a cat basket but hates moving cars, and wailed all the time we were in motion, only stopping when we stopped at traffic lights. The vet spoke to Mr Fidget kindly and persuaded him to show her each of his feet with remarkably little fuss. Cats can sense the power of vets. There's no way he'd have done that for us on the kitchen table, we had to wait until he chose to lie down and then look at his feet sideways. The pads of his front toes were lightly scorched, while the worst damage was to the big pad on his right hind foot, which was weeping slightly.
The vet gave Mr Fidget a pain killing injection, an antibiotic shot, and some little biscuits out of a tin box to cheer him up, and said that as his feet did not have any open wounds she would not bandage them and we might as well let him go outside if he wanted to, as the opposite would only distress him. We were sent away with a vial of painkilling liquid to be fed daily with food through a plastic syringe and an appointment to bring him back for a checkup in a couple of days, though she hoped that as the accident had happened on Saturday night he was not going to get worse from that point.
As I said, I do not really believe that one can tempt fate, or only in the sense of becoming over-confident then behaving rashly, and it was not me who jumped on the hot stove but Mr Fidget. But there was I thinking that this week I had very few appointments giving four whole uninterrupted days to get on with the gardening. Some hope. Two of them are now being truncated by visits to the vet. The whole thing is much more painful for Mr Fidget, but I hope that somewhere in his small, mad, hyperactive brain the idea has now firmly lodged that the stove is hot when it is lit.