MacKenzie and Me

I just got the email from the vet’s office last week: Happy Birthday, MacKenzie! Really, we aren’t completely sure how old MacKenzie is as I adopted him as an adult from a PetSmart over 14 years ago. The vet at that time felt he was at least 2 years old, which makes him now over 16. He is an elderly gentleman cat in his golden years.

Things weren’t always good with MacKenzie. He had been surrendered by his previous owner due to bad behavior: he scratched and destroyed everything in his path. Okay, let’s be frank here: MacKenzie was hell on cat feet!! Sneaky and wise to the ways of a spray bottle, he was hard to control as he ripped up curtains, furniture, and even dry wall. He was also extremely needy and demanding; there weren’t enough toys in the world to keep him entertained. Very smart, strong willed, curious, socially inclined, and a cat asshole, he was a mess like no other.  I hunted for cat behavior modification tips on the internet, bought cat trees, scratching posts, liquid catnip, and kitty deterrent spray for the furniture. I also bought kitty cookies!!

And I got him a kitten! This is Yellow Boy, his “baby” who really calmed and stabilized him until his death 18 months ago.

It took a few weeks, but with enough toys, his kitten, and lots of positive attention (and scratching posts) his behavior changed and he transformed into the cat I have today. He’s still a handful, but he (mostly) wants to please me.

Today he is my buddy and companion as we both struggle with medical issues.

The last year has been one of difficulty and medical misadventures for MacKenzie and me. Last winter I was struggling with swollen and painful joints, inflamed tendons/ligaments, and had trouble walking. MacKenzie’s right jaw locked and became badly damaged. I had to cut down his kitty cookies. By the end of summer my leg was completely collapsing and dropping me, and MacKenzie blew out the other jaw joint. I could see white bone in the joint before I got it to unlock and rushed him to the vet. Not good, not good, not good. I got him in the door at the vets office in his carrier somehow while managing to walk with one crutch.

The vet drew blood while we were at the office.

MacKenzie will need surgery to completely recover, but in the meantime the vet and I decided to use a course of anti-inflammatory drugs to help him heal. I wasn’t sure I should put him through surgery due to his age and general hatred of vets. The biggest problem was having to move him to soft food and there could be NO MORE KITTY COOKIES!!! MacKenzie hates soft food so I also bought him kitten food with its tiny kibble.

The blood tests showed that MacKenzie had hyperthyroidism so we started him on medication for that. Everything was going great until…

We ended up at the emergency animal service in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve.

We were really in trouble. MacKenzie was taken back for x-rays and an evaluation. Extreme constipation. A swollen spleen. Stones in his bladder. The vet wanted to do a biopsy on the spleen as it is probably cancer. He needed to have special food to dissolve the kidney stones; he will need surgery if they don’t dissolve. He had a loose tooth that needed to come out. I started him on the food and we made plans to have an ultrasound done in another month to check on the spleen and bladder stones.

Meanwhile I was having a spot of trouble myself. I developed extreme exhausion and worse shortness of breath. I had a few bouts with faintness and couldn’t stay on my feet more than a few minutes at a time. I collapsed in the yarn store and just narrowly avoided a 911 call. My face looked blue around my mouth way too much. I had a persistent pain in my side. My doctor ordered blood tests and a CT scan. I was ticking all of the boxes for lymphoma…

The special food for MacKenzie’s bladder stones came as soft food and a dry nugget kibble. The kibble was much larger than the kitten food, but I switched him to it anyway and offered him soft food too. I faithfully kept giving MacKenzie the medicine for his hyperthyroidism as the vet emphasized that this was critical for me to do. I was supposed to give MacKenzie a stool softener every day, but he refused to eat it on his food and would just vomit up the pill if I got it down him. The strong-willed sneakiness that got him dropped off at PetSmart all those years ago was back as he snuck behind furniture to throw up the pill where I wouldn’t find it.

Such a sweet boy… but very strong willed!

I caught the flu when I went in for the CT scan, and while I was sick MacKenzie began vomiting and showing signs of constipation. For 4 days. I battled with him to get his stool softener in. Desperate, I finally smeared Vaseline on his paw hoping he would lick it off and ingest it, and I stopped giving him his hyperthyroid medicine as I’m pretty sure it is the cause of this constipation.

Meanwhile my test results came back: not lymphoma, but that pain in my side is my spleen. My spleen! Me and the cat, rocking our swollen and painful spleens!! My blood work showed that my red blood cell count was way too high, and I had to get tested for a rare blood disorder called polycythemia vera (no results yet), and my doctor ordered a couple of other cancer screening. I also have a small hiatal hernia, a damaged esophagus, and increased fluid around my heart. Oh, scleroderma, why can’t you just behave yourself?! I have a sick cat on my hands!!

Vaseline saved the day and we managed to stay out of the kitty ER. Then MacKenzie’s loose tooth fell out and I broke a molar. “Why are we trapped in this bizarre parallel medical misadventure horror story,” I asked MacKenzie. Too sick with the flu to go anywhere, we both just had to hang tough for another week.

Then, just as MacKenzie got to the 30 day point on his special food, he dislocated his jaw again. Well versed in how to respond at this point I was able to get it to release within seconds, but that was the end of those big kibbles. I switched MacKenzie back to his kitten food. The vet prescribed a sugar solution, our last option, that I’m supposed to give MacKenzie three times a day to control the constipation. Right. I’m supposed to convince this ornery, strong-willed, too-smart-for-his-own-good cat to gulp down sugar water from a syringe every day. How can I do that without getting bit?

Give him KITTY COOKIES, or course. I stay right with him the whole time in case his jaw goes out.

So, here is the crazy end of the story. I’m feeling better after three weeks of bed rest and eventually we will get to the bottom of my new symptoms: I have some invasive testing coming my way and depending on what happens there will be further treatment. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back on oxygen before this is over. My cat is also feeling better and is pretty much back to where he started: eating the food that he wants and getting his kitty cookies again. Here’s the thing: I am in control of what happens to me, and can decline medical treatment, but MacKenzie needs me to do that for him. Last week I made those decisions.

My vet calls each week to check on MacKenzie; she has discussed the importance of maintaining a good quality of life for him as long as possible, but to not go too far.  I have stopped all of MacKenzie’s meds except for the sugar water and I have decided to not subject him to any invasive testing, surgery or chemo. I’m going to keep him as comfortable as I can and we will ride this out to the end together.

And then if there are garter snakes in heaven MacKenzie and Yellow Boy will be chasing them together.

Heaven had also better lay in a stock of kitty cookies!!

Author: Midnight Knitter

I weave, knit and read in Aurora, Colorado where my garden lives. I have 2 sons, a knitting daughter-in-law, a grandson and two exceptionally spoiled kittens. In 2014 I was diagnosed with a serious rare autoimmune disease called systemic sclerosis along with Sjogren's Disease and fibromyalgia.

35 thoughts on “MacKenzie and Me”

  1. So sorry to hear about MacKenzie’s troubles You are making a hard decision but the right one. Lots of love and treats for your four footed companion.


    Sent from my iPad


    1. Thank you! He is adjusting to the sugar water now and demanding cookies as his reward right afterwards, so that is going well, but I can see that he is in pain and he’s losing weight. I know this is the right thing to do, but so hard. He’s getting lots of attention and hugs these days.

      1. I am so terribly sorry to hear you’ve both been suffering greatly. You have such an amazing attitude about all of it. Poor kitty and poor you. I have to say “thank you” for sticking with and caring for a difficult cat. Most people won’t. We had a feral kitty name Slinky who also made it hard to love her, but love her I did. It took a year to be able to handle her at all, and after she bit me HARD several times I was afraid of her, too. She came around. We learned she was almost completely deaf. She was sweet and docile at the end, even choosing to sit near my foot after surgery. It was such a comfort. I wish you the best of luck with your own health issues. I’m also sending a heartfelt hug and best wishes as you transition your kitty to greener pastures. How sweet that his playmate, in the end, calmed him down. xo

      2. I was lucky that I was able to get him a kitten so quickly! I was lucky to be a teacher- some kids misbehave because they crave attention. They will gather negative attention if they dont get positive. MacKenzie was the same. As soon as I started to turn it around he became my (mostly) good boy. I let the kitten bond to MacKenzie so that he was Mackenzie’s pet, Maczkenzie loved him!

        Kudos to you for handling a really difficult cat. It can be so challenging, but also rewarding.

      3. I’m sure you were a wonderful teacher. I volunteered in the classroom when both boys were young. You could see the attention-craves. It takes a great teacher to understand and direct that energy.

      4. It was great! I kept plants going in my classroom all year
        (I had enormous spider plants hanging from my ceiling) and lots of plants that i used in my teaching like horsetails and cycads. Every weekend the plants went back into the greenhouse to charge up for the next week. 🙂

      5. What a fun classroom! On the subject of spider plants, I used to have three hanging from the eaves in the back garden. A Mourning dove built her nest in there, so we had front row seats from beginning to fledge. The pots were removed to paint the house, and the upturned pots have now populated the entire back garden with beautiful plants.

  2. You two really have been on a journey and what a patient mum you’ve been to persevere through his early days and now with his ailments when you are struck with your own. I wondered if MacKenzie likes his cookies if they are smashed up on his wet food…you know like a crumb topping? I hope your latest tests are all ok. Xx

    1. We certainly have had some adventures together! I will try some cookies on his wet food – that is a really good idea. I’ve tried giving him crushed cookies in the past and he really isn’t a fan. He certainly is a cat who knows what he wants!

      I’ve reached a point where I just want some test results that will explain my blue face and shortness of breath. This has been going on for months, but now that my rbc count is so high and my spleen has joined the party they have more data to work with and I think that I will have some more doctors in my future. One thing about scleroderma, it is never boring!

  3. Hope you are feeling better soon. Interestingly I was sitting here feeling very sorry for me when your email arrived! It shook me out of my self absorption as I remembered that other people (yes, and their pets Mackenzie!) have serious health issues. You must get sick of tests and constant doctors visits. Yellow cat was so pretty. Was it a special breed? I’m still holding hope for Mackenzie. I used to regularly house sit a 21 year old Oriental called ‘Miro’ who prowled around the house shouting as he went. Hope you get some positive answers soon.

    1. Oh, I think it’s okay to feel sorry for ourselves sometimes; it’s what we need to kick ourselves into taking action sometimes. 🙂 Truly, I’m embarrassed sometimes at support group meetings because there are people there with huge problems. Everything is perspective.

      Yellow Cat was a mixed kitten that my cousin found for me. He seemed to have a lot of Maine Coon in him, but he had a short little bob tail. He was the perfect pet for MacKenzie.

      Today MacKenzie is having a good day. 🙂

    1. That’s why I finally decided to disclose; I needed to warn people that “MacKenzie Speaks” may suddenly end. He is a cat with such a huge personality it is easy to write about my knitting and life from his perspective, and of course he is photogenic and that helps. Hopefully he’ll be whining about his neglect for months to come. 🙂

  4. So sorry for all that you and MacKenzie have been through and are going through still! I hope that you both are doing better soon. It is hard to make that decision with pets – we want to do our best for them, and sometimes that means letting things take their course. But I hope that he is with you for a long time coming!

    1. Thank you! I do hope that things go well for some time to come. The cancer concern is the big one, but who knows how quickly it will progress. He is being a better sport about his sugar doses, so that is encouraging. He is my special boy for sure!

  5. I am so very sorry to read about MacKenzie. I’ve been busy packing and moving. I was hoping for better news. It’s such a difficult, painful spot to be in, even if you’ve been in it before. I wish the best for both of you.

  6. Ohhh, Marilyn! I am holding you in my heart. So many hard things . . . I’m obviously behind and am catching up, so I’m hoping that as I keep reading, I will hear that things have looked up for both you and MacKenzie. ❤️

    1. I saw that you were blasting through a lot of posts. I am so sorry to let you know that MacKenzie left me several weeks ago. I still miss him something awful, but am glad that he is at the end of what was becoming a really sad time. I had to hold him for the last couple of days. 😦

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