Animal Welfare Professionals

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  • 1.  New to foster: Mother cat & 3 kittens

    Posted 08-30-2022 10:45 AM
    I'm new to being a foster home. I'm on my second assignment with a mother cat and 3 kittens, now one month old. We are in our third week. Babies are all gaining weight but I have lots of questions.

    Here are just a couple questions I have
    1) How do I introduce food to the kittens? They don't seem at all interested.
    2) With both assignments the mom doesn't want to be held. I can pet her and scratch under her chin, she purrs, but she is clearly fearful and will not allow me to hold her. It seems like it would be best to work toward getting the mom more comfortable with being held so that she will be more marketable when ready for adoption. I don't know where to start. Are there resources that I should be checking out that would let me understand the best way to foster so that the mom and kittens are prepared to be adopted?

    I live in Austin, Texas and I'm fostering for the Austin Humane Society

    Mary Davidson
    volunteer foster home
    Austin Humane Society

  • 2.  RE: New to foster: Mother cat & 3 kittens

    Posted 08-30-2022 10:51 AM
    Hi There,

    Here's a great resource from Maddie's:

    As for the momma, I would take it slow. Use high-quality treats to entice her, but let her come to you on her terms.  It's possible once the babies are weened that she'll be more comfortable and willing to socialize.

    Erin Ellis
    Community Engagement Director
    Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe

    Foster Program & Volunteer Management Specialist

  • 3.  RE: New to foster: Mother cat & 3 kittens

    Posted 08-31-2022 07:38 AM
    Hi Mary,

    I love fostering kittens, especially with a helpful momma cat. I'm a board member of The National Kitten Coalition. You'll find lots of helpful written resources as well as webinars on its website at

    The articles I wrote for Fear Free, although geared towards kittens, may be helpful for momma cat too. Take a look at,,

    Good luck, and keep up the good work!


    Nancy Peterson
    The National Kitten Coalition

  • 4.  RE: New to foster: Mother cat & 3 kittens

    Posted 08-31-2022 08:04 AM
    Hi Mary,

    First off, thank you for fostering : )

    1) Either soak their mom's food in water until soft or grind up the dry food in a coffee grinder and then add water. You can mix in some of mom's wet food or kitten milk replacement (if you have it). Since they are 4 weeks old, they can start spending a little time away from their mom (and her sweet boobies). Try separating them for an hour or two which will do two things: allow them to get hungry enough to try the mush and give them time away from their not-so socialized mom.

    2) It can be challenging and time consuming to socialize a fearful adult cat. I'd keep trying to gain her trust (I'm sure someone here can point you toward some good resources). If your time is limited, I would focus my energy on the kittens. They will learn to fear people from their mom BUT, the great news is that their temperaments are very flexible at this age. They should be gently handled and played with by as many different people as you can manage (like, 100). This does not mean you should give up on Mom but you will, almost definitely, have more luck with the kittens. 

    Good luck!

    Diane Zahorodny
    World Ready Pets

  • 5.  RE: New to foster: Mother cat & 3 kittens

    Posted 09-06-2022 09:06 AM
    The fact that mom lets you pet her and she purrs is GREAT. I wouldn't push her any farther for now. Let her come to you, and maybe she will start sitting on your lap or sitting next to you or approaching you for scratches. I've never had a momma cat with kittens, but I wonder when you pick her up if she could be thinking you are taking her away from her babies?

    But in general, it's normal for some cats to not like being held, no matter how friendly and snuggly they are otherwise! It's just how they are. One of the friendliest cats I ever had loved sitting on my lap, sitting next to me, followed me around, and acted more like a dog than a cat, but she HATED being picked up and held. Just hated it. Out came the claws! :)

    M Saucedo
    GIS Analyst
    Pets for Life

  • 6.  RE: New to foster: Mother cat & 3 kittens

    Posted 09-06-2022 09:32 AM
    Thank you!  I know it's not about the kittens.  Even when kittens are not nearby she seems terrified if I attempt to pick her up.  We are making progress, today when I sat on the floor with her she came to me and let me pet her.

    Mary Davidson
    volunteer foster home
    Austin Humane Society