Just realized I didn't have a word for "orphan" in the lexicon. k'hrai ("without family") would work, though I wonder if the situation would be k'nar ("without clan") instead. It strikes me that in the case where a Kilrathi youth loses both their parents, responsibility for their upbringing would fall to some level of kinsman. Unless of course you bring cat (with a lowercase "c") psychology into it - a male cat will instinctively kill the offspring of a female cat to bring her to estrus sooner, particularly if the male has unseated a previously dominant male. So that part of clan-relationship may or may not hold, I don't know. It seems (to me anyway) more likely that the lower Kilrathi castes would act more on base instincts, so orphans are more likely to crop up among the kilra'hra. (That takes us to Kirha, of course. Cases like Kirha's might be more exception than norm. I'd have to reread Freedom Flight.)And the one who needed to hide identity were the cub's foster mother who could not have been accepted by her own hrai because she persisted in following a warrior of another hrai. With the warrior's death in battle, she had no hrai to live in because this warrior's own hrai rejected and even hated her, but wandered to this ranch planet with her child and adopted the cub.
I don't quite know where I was going with all of this here...the backstory of the mother is probably tragic enough as it is.
Eh, I wouldn't worry about things being too soap opera-ish. I've got backstory characters in Elegy whose names are lifted straight from Downton Abbey...translated into the Kilrathi-equivalents, of course...Okay maybe a bit soap opera , but I am writing a folk song that is set in the story to be sung by this foster mother.