I had passed Kitty Harbor in West Seattle many times on my way to hang out with my kids on Alki Beach, but I had visited only once before I interviewed founder Delyn Kosbab. The reason for that? Although I visit shelter websites often, I try not to go into the locations much, because I already have six cats and apparently no boundaries when it comes to falling in love with abandoned animals.
But for years, Kitty Harbor has been in my Facebook feed with the cutest photos. That got me curious how Delyn started this treasure, so I contacted her to find out.
How did you get the idea to start Kitty Harbor?
I’ve done rescue since I was four years old, all throughout school. When I went to work as an electrician in the early ’90s, I would find stray and abandoned animals and go in and talk to animal control about the euthanization rates, which were very high then.
I got started in trap-neuter-release in King County (Washington) in my spare time. I would take in the cats at my house and get up at 5 a.m. to feed them, and again in the evenings after work I would stay up until one or two in the morning. I would adopt the friendlies out from my home and practice TNR for the ferals.
I also started teaching classes on TNR in King County and became active in the rescue community. I lived in West Seattle, which is why I got started here.
What did I hear about you being stalked?
An article about my work came out in the Seattle Times in 2002, and shortly after that, I started being stalked. One day my neighbor called and told me to come home. My cat, Ky, had been dismembered and buried in a shallow grave. His paws were found pointing toward my home. I was told that a human most likely tortured Ky alive.
I received death threats. A truck would come and park outside my house but would leave by the time the police came to investigate.
After that, I went underground. I lived with my own cats and took a leave of absence from work. I was devastated and depressed and I quit animal rescue.
Then one day I was driving on Roosevelt Avenue NE and a white Manx-looking cat who looked just like Ky ran across the street. I followed it to a house that looked like a jungle in the backyard. There were cats and kittens everywhere.
I went home and came back with my equipment and trapped 47 cats and kittens. I thought to myself, “Why am I letting this bastard get the best of me?” It was then that I decided that I was not going to let him win. I would not give up rescue because of him.
So I started doing adoptions again and saving $5 from each adoption into a money market account. I was still working as an electrician during the day and doing adoptions in the evenings.
In five years, I was able to save $160,000, and I bought this cottage. I renovated it with help from friends, and here it is today.
What makes Kitty Harbor different compared with other shelters in Seattle?
The way we socialize kitties to become compatible with each other. We have a visiting room where people can sit and visit with the cats to take the time to get to know the right one.
I have 20 volunteers who help clean, care for, and socialize the cats. We guarantee a return within 10 days if the adoption doesn’t work out. We never adopt out only a single kitten, only in pairs or if there is another cat similar in age at the home, so the kitten won’t be lonely or get into trouble.
Would you like to share a special rescue story with us?
There are so many! One that happened recently was where there was an ad on Craigslist from a woman living in a trailer, who was giving away five kittens. Eventually those kittens ended up here for a variety of reasons and from a variety of sources.
Then the mom ended up here, but we didn’t know that she was the mom at first. The kittens were here already and the mom had just come in. She was watching them intently from her cage. We let her out and immediately the kittens came to her. All the people in the shelter who witnessed it were in awe. It had been five weeks, but clearly they recognized each other and there was still that bond. The mom and two of her babies were adopted together and the other two kittens were adopted together.
What is your advice for a new adopter to get ready for the new feline member of their family?
The adopters should come ready with their adoption application printed and completed. They should be ready for a 20-year commitment, and kids really should be aged five years or older. Kitty Harbor will not adopt out a single kitten unless there is another cat close in age in the home.
Delyn is retired now but spends most of her time caring for the cats and kittens in her rescue. She is pleased that adoption rates are up in the Seattle area and that far fewer cats are euthanized than when she first got started in this work.
I went in to Kitty Harbor looking for a story, but I was not expecting to leave so filled with admiration and awe of such an amazing woman — a woman who was called to rescue at an early age, who would not let fear and violence stop her from reaching her calling to rescue abandoned kitties.
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