FBR is sharing Izzy’s story for Itchy Pet Awareness Month in August.

How Izzy Came Into My Life 

FBR Real Pet Stories

Izzy and her Cat Mom Jackie

Isabelle — whom we call Izzy — and I found each other my first year of veterinary school. I had moved to the U.K. to attend the University of Edinburgh, and she was listed on Gumtree, which is the U.K.’s version of Craigslist, as needing rehoming due to too many pets in the household. She was a tiny, terrified and utterly feral kitten who attacked anything that moved with full teeth and nails. I also suspected she had not been properly weaned because she quickly bonded to me; when she finally relaxed in her new environment, she performed self-soothing “nursing” behaviors on my person. She didn’t think I would mind her suckling on a T-shirt to the point of wetting it!

She quickly developed a bit of a reputation among my classmates for being hyper-aggressive to anyone other than me. Her first veterinary visit to the University of Edinburgh Veterinary Hospital for Small Animals was especially memorable because when I asked the poor final year veterinary student who took her back for her pre-operative bloodwork and spay “If she had behaved for him,” he reported incredulous, “Oh no! It wasn’t safe for a student to do!!”

From that point on, if Izzy needed a procedure, I had to assist with her restraint, or else gauntlets — leather shoulder length gloves used by animal care personnel to handle animals — were required. She has since mellowed a bit and I can handle her restraint independently, but if I can’t be present to assist, it’s safest for all parties if she is sedated. She’s quite feisty.

Following veterinary school, I moved back to the USA and settled in Chicago for a private practice position. I temporarily left Izzy in the care of a close friend from vet school until I had an apartment and could arrange her overseas travel. It took three of my best vet school friends knocking over furniture and lots of drama to get Izzy into her international shipping crate, but she arrived safe and sound. My fellow vets had only minimal war wounds to speak of!

Izzy and Cat Dad

Izzy and her cat dad

Allergic To Everything

Unfortunately, following Izzy’s arrival at my home in Chicago, it became pretty clear that she was becoming uncomfortable in her own skin! It took a few more weeks to confirm she was allergic to the standard grasses and trees common in the US

Izzy Napping

Cat Nap

Cat Nap A. My poor Scottish cat was allergic to the United States! Her allergies became worse when I moved to New Orleans for residency. For a period of time the only medication option was injectable steroids, as she refused to take any oral form of treatment. Follow-up allergy testing to develop an immunotherapy vaccine treatment for her eventually also showed that she was not only allergic to the average greenery in the U.S., but she also had developed allergies to human dander!
Izzy and Aria

Izzy and Aria

She is now given Zyrtec daily — my husband and I discovered Friskies chicken pate is a miracle at hiding medication — and gets immunotherapy vaccines every 10 days. She took about two years to warm up to my husband, whom I met in New Orleans during my residency. She now loves him even more than me, as he feeds her the daily beloved Friskies! We also bathe her once a month to remove allergens and especially our human dander, and it makes quite a difference to her skin. When we first started the baths, I had to wear a full sweatsuit in the shower or be completely shredded! But she has acclimated and now even my husband can bathe her even though he really doesn’t enjoy that task. (ALSO READ: Cleo’s Story of Survival)

Thanks, Animal Research!

Immunotherapy injections have made a huge difference in Izzy’s treatment. We still occasionally need to give her oral steroids, but the frequency is so decreased compared to prior to the immunotherapy and Zyrtec that it just can’t be compared. She is a new cat on immunotherapy. Thanks, animal research!

Dr. Jacqueline Scapa is senior clinical veterinarian at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. She provided the photographs of herself and Izzy for FBR Real Pet Stories™
Sponsored by:
James Allan
FBR Board Vice Chair James Allan, MD, MBA, is an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Allan is a thoracic surgeon whose clinical interests include the surgical management of benign and malignant diseases of the lungs and esophagus. His research interests involve transplantation tolerance and xenotransplantation as studied in large animal models.
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