Kitty Q & A

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Below you’ll find a list of frequently asked questions and answers that we get at Kitty Harbor. For more information, please see “Kitty Harbor’s Guide to Your New Cat”, which provides more in-depth information. It can be downloaded by clicking here. Please contact us by e-mail or by phone at (206) 935-1919 if you have further questions.

Q: Are all your cats spayed or neutered?

A: All adult cats and kittens over 2lbs have already been fixed before they leave Kitty Harbor. If your new kitten is under 2lbs, and hasn’t been fixed yet — you will need to send us the paperwork from the vet or give us a call when you get them fixed. Most vets recommend fixing a kitten between 3 to 6 months of age.

Q: Are all your cats up to date on their shots?

A: All cats receive the vaccine FVRCP or are determined to be current based on previous records. We do not vaccinate for FeLV, FIP, FIV or Rabies. You are responsible for obtaining boosters and other follow-up vaccines from a veterinarian.

Q: What should I feed my new cat or kitten?

A: At Kitty Harbor we often feed a mix of foods that have been donated. When selecting a high quality cat food, check the ingredient list on food bags to make sure a named meat source is the first ingredient. You should try to avoid foods with corn or corn gluten, animal by-products, wheat, soy, brewers rice, and ethoxyquin. What you want to see in the ingredient list are named fish and meats, high quality grains like brown rice, barley, oatmeal, and plenty of vegetables. Best of all are grain-free foods, but they can be pricey.

Q: What happens to your cats when you close for the winter?

A: Any cats that are unadopted when we close for the winter season will go into foster homes or to other shelters and come back up for adoption at Kitty Harbor in the spring when we re-open.

Q: Why does Kitty Harbor close for the season every December?

A: Kitten birthing season begins in spring, peaks in early summer, and ends in fall. Warmer weather coincides with female cats’ heat cycles. During this time there is a large glut of cats and kittens that need to find good homes and we come in to take our part of the heavy load. When kitten season ends and the number of cats that need homes lessens, our all-volunteer staff take some time off to relax and get ready for the spring when we re-open for more adoptions.

Q: Is it OK if I let my cat outside?

A: It is a very bad idea to let your cat go outside for any reason. If a cat is never let outside, he or she will usually not know the difference and be completely fine with this. Not only do they learn to accept living inside, indoor-only cats live many more years than their outdoor cat counterparts. Here in Seattle we have many threats outside to our furry friends: coyotes, cars, and even cruel humans. There is also the risk of cat fighting and as a result Feline HIV. We believe that it really isn’t worth the risk of letting your cat go outside.

Q: I have a dog at home. Will my new cat get along with the dog?

A: Many of our cats have been raised with dogs and do well. Please ask us for specifics about this when you come to adopt.

Q: Why do you only adopt kittens in pairs, or to houses that have another cat as a companion?

A: Many people are surprised when we tell them we don’t adopt out single kittens as an only pet. Being with other cats is extremely important to a kitten’s development. The below article from PAWS Chicago offers great insight into the importance of this policy:

Kittens are curious and crave constant stimulation. A single, bored kitten will often entertain itself by chewing on plants, climbing drapes, climbing furniture, unrolling toilet paper, exploring electrical cords and sockets, etc. This is not to say that kittens who live with other kittens won’t also sometimes do these things, but if they have another kitten to tumble around and play with, it is less likely that they will need to entertain themselves with behaviors like these, which at the least are destructive and at the worst can be very dangerous.

Kittens tend to be very active at night. A single kitten is likely to keep the owner awake with constant jumping, pouncing and other hunting behavior directed at any portion of the owner’s body which moves under the bed linens. With a companion to play with after the owner has gone to bed, this behavior is minimized as the two will occupy each other by finding interesting shadows to chase and games to play until they finally tire and fall asleep too.

Kittens want and need interaction with others of their own kind for healthy social development. A kitten learns a lot in the first several months of life from its mother and littermates. Separating a kitten from its mother is often a necessity in order for it to be adopted, but taking it away from its littermates and isolating it can delay the kitten’s development emotionally, socially and sometimes physically. Kittens that are able to remain with one of their littermates or a similarly-aged companion, tend to be healthier and happier, and in the long run, better socialized pets than those who are isolated from others of their kind at an early age.

Anyone who has observed kittens knows they want to bite and wrestle with one another–this behavior is normal. You cannot prevent a kitten from doing what comes naturally anymore than you can force a two year old toddler to sit still. Though it is not acceptable for a kitten to bite and wrestle with its human companions, in the absence of having a littermate or companion its own age to play with, this is precisely what a single kitten will want to do. Even if you are willing to allow (and can tolerate) this behavior from your kitten when it is small, by the time the animal matures, you will end up with an adult cat who has developed very bad habits (for example, biting and scratching as “play”).

Humans, even loving, caring humans, are not an adequate substitute for a cat in lieu of one of its own kind. Even if the owner is fortunate enough to be home quite a bit, the amount of attention a lone kitten will demand is likely to occupy all of the owner’s waking hours at home. A pair of kittens will definitely still want to interact with the owner, but can keep each other occupied while the owner is doing such necessary tasks as working, paying bills, having telephone conversations, gardening, laundry, etc. Most cats, regardless of their age, are highly sociable and are truly happier living with other cat companions. This in turn makes them better pets, which results in happier owners.

Particularly if there is already an older cat in the household, a kitten should not be brought in as a lone companion. As mentioned above, a youngster has boundless energy, wants to play and run constantly, and requires very high amounts of interaction, all of which are likely to overwhelm and irritate an older cat in short order. Likewise, a kitten is apt to be frustrated that its companion does not have the same energy level as itself. At the very least, this can lead to two very unhappy cats. Worse-case scenario, behavior problems such as litter box avoidance or destructive scratching can occur if one or both cats act out their frustrations on their surroundings. Longer-term, it is almost certain that the two will never have a close, bonded relationship, even after the kitten matures, since their experiences with one another from the beginning of the relationship are likely to be negative. An older cat is better matched with someone of his or her own age, who has a similar temperament.

Adopting a single kitten or young cat is simply not a good idea. Trying to keep a single kitten occupied, stimulated, safe and happy while also going about the business of everyday life is much more of a challenge than it may seem upon first consideration.

We understand and accept that someone out there will probably adopt or sell you a single kitten. With that in mind, please think long and hard about forcing a kitten to become an only child. Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she created kittens in litters!

Read “Kitty Harbor’s Guide to Your New Cat” [pdf]

A Seattle shelter and adoption facility for homeless cats and kittens.