You put the candle high, supervised it, maybe even closed the door on your beloved pet. Nevertheless, an accident happened and now Whiskers is covered in hardened, sticky wax. Your de-stickifying strategy will depend on the extent of the damage, type of wax, and your kitty's temperament and tolerance, but rest assured, it's usually possible to remove most of the stuff, and once the bulk is gone, your cat is likely to handle what remains on her own.
Assessing the Damage
Be sure all fire is extinguished. Calmly restrain your pet and check for burns. If she appears to be in pain or has scorched hair, a bald patch, a blister, a red or darkened area, or a crusty patch, or any possible burn on the face or feet, visit a vet immediately. Burns on cat skin do not necessarily look like burns on human skin, so when in doubt, check it out.
Type of Wax
Different waxes melt at different temperatures and behave differently in contact with surfaces, including skin and fur. Pure beeswax burns hottest and is most likely to burn skin. Paraffin burns cooler and is less dangerous. Glass-encased candles and scented wax mixtures heated over warmers are coolest and safest. Your initial cat-dewaxing strategy will depend on the consistency of the wax.
If the wax on your cat is from pure beeswax, take her to a vet to check for burns. If it is from paraffin -- like a tea light, taper candle, or column candle -- without glass, begin breaking the clumps up by hand. If you can get your cat in a petting mood, you may not need to restrain her. Crumble the wax as much as possible. Then, take a fine-tooth comb and place it behind the wax clump, close to the skin. Gently wriggle it to remove more wax. If you can free most of the hair, she will groom the rest of the wax out.
Soft wax is safer, but may be more difficult to remove and require restraining the cat. First, soften it further with the heat of your hand. If this does not work, try a warm, damp washcloth or hairdryer set to the lowest setting. Your cat is not likely to enjoy either. Remove as much wax as possible by gently rolling it out with your fingertips, then try the fine-tooth comb, beginning close to the skin and working outward.
If gentle manual removal isn't enough, try freezing hard wax or dissolving soft wax. Use an ice cube to further harden hard wax, then crumble it with your fingertips. Keep the cube away from your pet's skin. Use edible oil -- coconut, olive, vegetable, any will do -- to soften soft wax. The oil should mix with and dilute the wax enough to comb most of it out. Be sure to use a food-based oil, not baby oil or essential oil products, because the cat will ingest it while grooming.
Tips and Cautions
Beeswax, paraffin and most glass-encased wax blends are biologically inert -- the small amount ingested from grooming will not harm your cat. If your kitty had an accident with another type of wax or a scented candle, consult your veterinarian or a poison control center. Some essential plant oils are toxic to cats. If the wax is extremely difficult to remove, covers a large portion of the body, or is in a delicate or hard-to-reach area, bring your cat to a groomer or veterinarian.