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