It’s quite easy to assess if kittens enjoy petting. But first, some safety tips.
Try to approach the kittens when the mom is not nearby, because mother cats can be very protective of their babies, and serious injuries can result. Rabies is a rare, but deadly, result of a bite from an unvaccinated animal, so always seek medical attention if you do get injured.
When you are sure the mom is not a threat, take a few minutes to allow the kittens to get used to your presence. Place some tasty kitten food near them and see if they eat it. Then, if they are still calm, hold out your hand and speak softly to the kittens. Socialized kittens will usually be relaxed, or just slightly tense, and allow you to touch them. Un-socialized kittens will flatten their ears, puff up their fur, hiss or run away. If kittens show these behaviours, don’t try to touch them. Once they are mobile, they can bite or scratch if they feel highly threatened.
If you do see the mom nearby, stay where you are, or back away quietly if you are anywhere near the kittens. Sit quietly at a safe distance and see if she stays where she is or approaches you.
If she approaches in a friendly way (ears pricked, tail up, meowing, rubbing her head on nearby objects), hold out your hand and let her come to you. If she is friendly and wants to be petted, think about bringing her and the kittens into your home and taking care of them until they can be adopted. Contact us about our Foster-Finder program or how to get the mom and kittens into our regular foster program. Don’t forget to first talk to your neighbours in case one of them has lost their cat!
If the mother cat stays put, with a tense body, swishes her tail, flattens her ears, hisses or puffs up her fur, move away quietly and quickly. She is letting you know she feels threatened and will defend her kittens from you.