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Uncommon Knowledge Helps Save Mango the Senior Cat From a Rare Malady

Acromegaly mimics the symptoms of diabetes; a foster couple knew this from a cat they lost.

Denise LeBeau  |  Mar 9th 2016


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Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

It appeared that Mango, an emaciated 12-year-old diabetic tabby cat, had used up all nine of his lives. The sweet, stripey orange-and-white feline was picked up by Animal Care Centers of NYC, where he was not considered the greatest candidate for adoption. Being a senior in need of daily medical treatments made the list of potential adopters short. But there was a miracle in the making for Mango. Members of an animal welfare organization were watching for a diabetic cat in need with an experienced and well-stocked foster home at the ready.

Some folks see a homeless animal and ask, “How can I help?” That’s noble. Nobler still are the folks who go out of their way to give medical cases a second chance. Heike Klassmann and Sherri Bohlig are the latter. They volunteer for Anjellicle Cats Rescue, an animal welfare organization based in New York City and offered to foster a diabetic cat who would otherwise be euthanized. Without this couple’s commitment, Mango’s hopes of seeing his 13th birthday would be nil.

Mango with his humans, Heike and Sherri. (Photo courtesy Heike Klassmann)

Mango with his humans, Heike and Sherri. Photo courtesy Heike Klassmann

As foster parents, Heike and Sherri have opened their home to many homeless pets. When their cat, Malachy, crossed the Rainbow Bridge last year, they honored his legacy in an unexpected way. Malachy was originally diagnosed with diabetes, and Sherri became an expert in the field.

When Malachy didn’t respond to traditional diabetic treatments, further testing exposed the real culprit: Doctors found a small benign tumor in his pituitary gland. It’s the nucleus for a condition called feline acromegaly, and it mimics the symptoms of diabetes by creating a resistance to insulin.

Feline acromegaly is considered rare, and while Heike and Sherri didn’t believe they’d have to face it again, they quickly learned that their latest foster cat would doubly benefit from their research on the subject.

Hamming it up for the camera. (Photo courtesy Heike Klassmann)

Hamming it up for the camera. Photo courtesy Heike Klassmann

“With proper medical care, diabetes can go into remission,” Sherri said.

As she began administering the twice-daily doses of insulin to treat Mango’s diabetes, she saw something that concerned her. He wasn’t responding to the insulin. Mango went back to the vet for more testing. The vet found he had hyperthyroidism. The vet also discovered Mango had feline acromegaly. In addition to preventing the absorption of insulin, feline acromegaly causes vital organs and bones to continue to grow — wreaking havoc on the cat’s entire body. Urgent treatment was required.

“There are only a handful of facilities in the United States that offer treatment options for acromegalic cats,” Sherri said. “Surgery to remove the tumor is available in only one place on the West Coast. There are a few animal hospitals offering stereotactic radiotherapy. Thankfully, one of them is right in Yonkers, New York.”

Mango and his sibling, Chance. (Photo courtesy Heike Klassmann)

Mango and his sibling, Chance. Photo courtesy Heike Klassmann

Mango’s echocardiogram revealed that he did have mild heart disease, but he was healthy enough for surgery. Anjellicle Cats Rescue agreed to do whatever Mango needed. With a social media fundraising drive in place, the three-day procedure was scheduled.

“After Mango’s procedure, we saw immediate improvement,” Sherri said.

Before receiving stereotactic radio therapy, Mango was getting 28 units of insulin twice per day; now he’s on six units once a day.

As his health rebounds, Mango’s bigger-than-life personality continues to emerge. Among the couple’s menagerie are rescued parakeets. Another cat, Chance, is obsessed with his winged flatmates and likes to try and swing from their cage.

Mango is thriving in his new home. (Photo courtesy Heike Klassmann)

Mango is thriving in his new home. Photo courtesy Heike Klassmann

One morning, Sherri saw Chance about to make his acrobatic move and shouted “No!” while he was in midair. Mango arrived on the scene just as Chance made his landing and quickly bopped Chance’s nose a few times.

“He’s got amazing comedic timing,” Sherri said.

Mango is also a musical connoisseur. Sherri plays the clarinet, and whenever Mango hears her playing, he rushes toward the melody where he accompanies her with meowing.

Mango’s journey brings a message of hope to all the older and sick shelter animals, but he might not know that — he’s just trying to keep hitting those high notes with a family who loves him.

For more information about Anjellicle Cats Rescue, follow it on Facebook.

About the author: Denise LeBeau is an award-winning essayist, writer, editor, and self-professed poet laureate of the pet set. For the past seven years, she has written full-time for an animal welfare organization. She shares her home in Hampton Bays, New York, with two rescued Siamese cats, Flipper and Slayer, and two rescued moocher mutts, Parker and Zephyrella. Connect with her on Facebook.