No progress with aggressive/territorial(?) introduction - maybe getting worse?

teapartyon

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Sorry this is long, I just wanted to provide as much details as I could for clarification.

I moved in with my partner over a month ago. My cat has always been my only pet as long as I've had her, no idea about her life two years prior. I only know that she had kittens and was abandoned in a house. She's 8 years old now. My partner has two 1 year old cats, both girls. We'll refer to my cat as M, and his cats as H and U if relevant as I write.

M has always been known for how chill she is. Everyone who visited me at my home always had surprising but good things to say about her and how relaxed she was around new people. So when I brought her to our new place, we took her to the guest room to meet my partner for the first time (we were long distance prior). She immediately walked up and nuzzled him and greeted him as if he was always one of her humans. She didn't even need a moment when introducing her to the rest of the apartment. She just strutted around like she'd always lived here, found the cat tree, and plopped down. So, he thought maybe we could see how she does with the other two cats if she's really this chill. Otherwise, we were going to do the Jackson Galaxy method of introductions. Needless to say, it did not go well. We were still cautious and didn't take our eyes off of them for a second, but it quickly escalated into a full blown chase with a lot of screaming and hissing and batting. I've read threads here and on Reddit about introductions, cat aggression, territorial behavior, etc. and I still have yet to read about the type of aggression coming from my cat. We're used to cats hissing and giving a bat to tell the other they're annoyed, or play chasing. This was not that. I'm pretty sure M is a very territorial cat.

So we recognized our mistake and started the process over with the Jackson Galaxy method. It's been hard and it's been over a month and I don't think we've made much progress. In fact, I fear my cat may be getting worse. We still cannot let her around the other two or she will flip a switch, like some Jekyll and Hyde cat and go at them full force. If she slips out, it's not a "Whoopsy doodle!" kind of thing. It's a panic and snatch up any cat you see before there's a brawl kind of thing. Just last week, I had to break up a fight that left her with a bloody paw from a nail that broke down to the quick, the other cat had a scratch on the nose, and she scratched up my hand when I went to grab her. I had gone to let her out of the guest room and thought both of the other cats were in the bedroom with my partner, but one of them was hidden somewhere. I went to grab her water bowl to clean and refill it, it hadn't even been a minute when I heard a growl. I quickly turned to go grab her but by time I got to her, she was already pummeling the other cat.

So what have we done? My partner first proposed putting her in our walk in closet so that she was closer to the other two, their scent, and we could easily start positive association with food since the other two's bowls were nearby. This was not good. It was too small, under-stimulating and isolating, she'd climb up onto the shelves and knock stuff down, it was inconvenient as we needed to use the closet and she'd easily slip through the door when it opened, she was going nuts in there. So we went back to our original plan and put her in the guest bedroom. This is just around the corner from our bedroom which is where the other two primarily hang out. She was a free feeding cat save for wet food dinner at night since my work schedule was inconsistent (no, she never over-ate, nor was she overweight). So, we had to get her on an eating schedule before we could do positive association with food. This was working for a bit (but has also regressed). All 3 cats have automatic feeder meals for 7am, noon, and 5pm, and then a wet food meal (or kibble if they're being fickle) later in the evening. She started to establish association with her feeder and would run to it when it went off. But also, she absolutely hated being stuck in the guest room, especially with the door shut. We would give her time to roam around the rest of the apartment while the other two were in our bedroom, we figured this could also serve as site swapping for scent familiarity. Maybe we could've done more here, such as putting the other two in the guest bedroom, and her in our bedroom? But the goal here was to not keep her cooped up in a bedroom with little stimulation other than toys and a window to look out of.

We eventually got a screen door for the guest bedroom so that while she was in the room, she didn't feel so isolated while in the guest room, and this would also help normalize the presence of the other cats, or so we were hoping. At first, she'd charge at the other two but to no avail thanks to the screen door. Eventually, this stopped. We couldn't tell if it was because she learned it was useless trying, or because she no longer desired to pounce. The other two were really nervous around her. One of the cats, U, for a few weeks, refused to leave the bedroom because she had to walk within close proximity of the guest bedroom door where M would be lounging just behind the screen. We'd have to carry her out of the bedroom to get her to go into the living room. H was a little cautious, but no longer has any issues. M seemed chill as she watched the two go on past. She'd just be flopped over, lounging. And over time, the other two gained some confidence walking past M, which was good because U was starting to get destructive from keeping to the bedroom. With the two now able to walk past M, and M seemingly chill with their presence, we decided we'd slowly move their bowls closer to each other. H and Us bowls were moved to the hallway. The bowls were about within 10-15 ft proximity of each other. Again, H was fine, but U was (and still is) very cautious. She won't eat with her side or back turned to M. And M? She won't eat if they're within view or if she knows they're close by. Thinking on it now, I think we should've seen that as a sign that M was not ready for us to start moving the food bowls near each other and still isn't. But her body language was so hard to read! When the two were in the hallway eating, she'd just sit at the screen door.

Eventually, H started getting comfortable with M. She started hanging out in the hallway lounging in front of the door as well. They'd be within 2-4 ft of each other. Sometimes she'd even meow at M. U started acting curious as well, she'd lounge at the end of the hallway, about 4-6 ft from M. Then the incident where I thought both cats were in the bedroom happened. It was U who M had a run in with. She is back to acting cautious when outside our bedroom, and she is skittish when eating. Meanwhile, we were able to get M and H within a foot of each other as they shared a Churu through the screen door. M was again, seemingly acting relaxed. We were feeling encouraged about H and M's progress. But then over night, M shifted again. She is back at charging at the screen door when the other two are around. She growls if even H comes near the screen door. She's constantly eagerly and desperately clawing at the screen door if either is nearby. We've watched her repeat stalking behavior over and over. She will crouch down low, her tail also low and swishing side to side, she then peers at them from under the bed or around the corner, and then charges. Rinse and repeat, over and over. At first we thought maybe she was expressing interest in playing, but now we think she's actually stalking them. She won't eat if they're nearby, she just paces and claws at the screen. When they're in our bedroom and she's out and about, I've noticed she's started planting herself in the hallway between the bedroom doors like she's guarding. It's as if she's trying to establish the hallway as her territory as well.

We don't know what to do at this point. Do we start the whole process over completely? I do recall in the guide by Jackson Galaxy, he said with every incident, you start the process over. So, we move their bowls back into our bedroom? Close the guest bedroom door on her until she can get back on a schedule? Is the screen potentially adding to her stress? Making her feel vulnerable? Then maybe keep her door closed but keep their bowls on the other side of hers? I'm worried now that she knows they're there, she won't ever relax if she knows they're close by and the second we try moving them closer again, she'll start fixating on them. I've also been worrying she could be a rare case scenario where she just genuinely can't be around other cats. But I've had so many sources say that there's no such thing. Obviously I don't want to have to resorting to rehoming my cat. But I also don't want any of the cats to live under constant stress.

Here are some photos for visual on the proximity of the rooms, and of course the kitties. Orange one is H, grey tabby is U. And worry not, we don't keep the lights off in M's room (as shown in the photo with U). We had guests over briefly who were sharing the room with M and they left and turned off the lights.
 

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Furballsmom

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Hi, welcome! I wouldn't consider rehoming her.
Try this; use a calming spray around the house (feliway is too expensive and can make things worse especially in situations like this, in my experience). Also utilize Cat Music.

This may also help;
either with vanilla or raw coconut (which still has fragrance) ;

From [IMG alt="valanhb"]https://thecatsite.com/data/avatars/s/1/1991.jpg?1491958259[/IMG] valanhb
You put a dab of vanilla extract under the chins, at the base of their neck (by the spine) and at the base of the tail (again, on the spine not the underside of the tail!) of all of the cats to make them smell the same. Cats recognize each other by scent, so if that kitty smells the same as "me", then he must be a friend. Kitty logic at it's finest.
This trick works when introducing cats into the household as well, or during a reintroduction after a redirected aggression event.

You may need to just let this work itself out. A scratch on the nose isn't much in the world of cats, although that broken claw is - I'm wondering how that occurred, but it is in the past. It will be loud off and on for a while, and some fur may fly but as long as the two young cats have a place to get away from the older female, you may be very surprised at how things go.
 

maggie101

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I have rescued 3 cats,now senior 8,9,and 10 yrs old.
First I rescued peaches 5 weeks old,very sociable. Month later,Maggie rescued 3 months old. At first they played together. Now peaches does not like her. Coco was rescued 2 yrs old. Since then, she has been afraid of maggie but plays with peaches. Part of the reason is Maggie is bigger and territorial .long and skinny,Peaches is petite and ruler,Coco slightly bigger and still very timid and scared of maggie but plays with peaches. Once Coco jumps on the couch or furniture Maggie leaves her alone because she is above Maggie. I have also clicker trained Maggie. Maggie leaves her alone now but Coco still runs from her

None of them were ever locked up.
 

ErinDeGroot

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feliway is too expensive and can make things worse especially in situations like this, in my experience).
I'm dealing with seemingly unending introduction aggression, too, and I did end up getting feliway multicat. I don't think it's helping that much either---what is your theory on this, Furballsmom Furballsmom ? Our new kitten is an unaltered boy (too young) and the OGs are fixed girls, if that matters. I'm also using a calming collar on the most aggressive 3yo girl that has "calming" scents on it (It's worth a shot, teapartyon teapartyon ) but I'm just not sure if I've seen much of change so far. But then, aggro girl has always been more anxious and she may just be at that age? Idk.

I'm definitely open to trying to set everyone's scent to vanilla, but I wonder if the new cat will always smell differently because I use a baking soda deodorizer with a strong perfume in his litter box that the others don't use. It's hard to get them to smell the same when the conditions they live in are not the same, but it's a tiny office and I can't stand the smell of the kitty pan for 8 hours a day. I didn't mean to hijack the post, but I'm very curious about the scent thing and maybe it can help the OP!
 

maggie101

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I have rescued 3 cats,now senior 8,9,and 10 yrs old.
First I rescued peaches 5 weeks old,very sociable. Month later,Maggie rescued 3 months old. At first they played together. Now peaches does not like her. Coco was rescued 2 yrs old. Since then, she has been afraid of maggie but plays with peaches. Part of the reason is Maggie is bigger and territorial .long and skinny,Peaches is petite and ruler,Coco slightly bigger and still very timid and scared of maggie but plays with peaches. Once Coco jumps on the couch or furniture Maggie leaves her alone because she is above Maggie. I have also clicker trained Maggie. Maggie leaves her alone now but Coco still runs from her

None of them were ever locked up.
Maggie's on the tower,Peaches couch,Coco head of couch
 
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teapartyon

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Hi, welcome! I wouldn't consider rehoming her.
Try this; use a calming spray around the house (feliway is too expensive and can make things worse especially in situations like this, in my experience). Also utilize Cat Music.

This may also help;
either with vanilla or raw coconut (which still has fragrance) ;

From [IMG alt="valanhb"][URL]https://thecatsite.com/data/avatars/s/1/1991.jpg?1491958259[/IMG][/URL] valanhb
You put a dab of vanilla extract under the chins, at the base of their neck (by the spine) and at the base of the tail (again, on the spine not the underside of the tail!) of all of the cats to make them smell the same. Cats recognize each other by scent, so if that kitty smells the same as "me", then he must be a friend. Kitty logic at it's finest.
This trick works when introducing cats into the household as well, or during a reintroduction after a redirected aggression event.

You may need to just let this work itself out. A scratch on the nose isn't much in the world of cats, although that broken claw is - I'm wondering how that occurred, but it is in the past. It will be loud off and on for a while, and some fur may fly but as long as the two young cats have a place to get away from the older female, you may be very surprised at how things go.
I absolutely refuse to just let it sort itself out. I'm in my 30s, I've owned cats my whole life. I know cats will tussle and swat, hiss, etc. But I'm of the variety who do not believe in letting cats duke it out if it's going on beyond a single swipe and a hiss. If it's a full on chase filled with screaming and scratching, it's not just going to resolve itself. If anything, it'll create trauma and cause damage, and creation negative association with spaces. There are realistically no places for a cat to escape that another cat can't get to unless you put a barrier between them. That's not much different from simply breaking up the fight. These were not just "Get away from me" tussles. My cat aggressively goes after them and does not stop until we break it up. The only reason one of them got away with just a scratch is likely because I broke up the fight as soon as I could. We believe she broke the claw when she was chasing (it's a hind claw, not one she'd swat with unless she was rabbit kicking while wrestling with the other cat). Most cat behaviorists advise against letting cats resolve their fights as they tend to do more harm than good.

My partner's cat still acts afraid of leaving the bedroom. If my cat was always out and about and very prone to beating her up, she would absolutely refuse to leave her hiding spot. She's already losing weight because she won't eat unless her bowl is back in the bedroom or we stand guard. That wouldn't make the situation better.
 

maggie101

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I absolutely refuse to just let it sort itself out. I'm in my 30s, I've owned cats my whole life. I know cats will tussle and swat, hiss, etc. But I'm of the variety who do not believe in letting cats duke it out if it's going on beyond a single swipe and a hiss. If it's a full on chase filled with screaming and scratching, it's not just going to resolve itself. If anything, it'll create trauma and cause damage, and creation negative association with spaces. There are realistically no places for a cat to escape that another cat can't get to unless you put a barrier between them. That's not much different from simply breaking up the fight. These were not just "Get away from me" tussles. My cat aggressively goes after them and does not stop until we break it up. The only reason one of them got away with just a scratch is likely because I broke up the fight as soon as I could. We believe she broke the claw when she was chasing (it's a hind claw, not one she'd swat with unless she was rabbit kicking while wrestling with the other cat). Most cat behaviorists advise against letting cats resolve their fights as they tend to do more harm than good.

My partner's cat still acts afraid of leaving the bedroom. If my cat was always out and about and very prone to beating her up, she would absolutely refuse to leave her hiding spot. She's already losing weight because she won't eat unless her bowl is back in the bedroom or we stand guard. That wouldn't make the situation better.
Not true for all l cats, but anything higher than them they're afraid of. Maggie is clicker trained. Hope things work out:redheartpump::redheartpump::redheartpump:
 

Janie834

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teapartyon teapartyon , can I ask how you and your cats are doing? I am dealing with an aggressive cat as well. Thanks!
 
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teapartyon

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teapartyon teapartyon , can I ask how you and your cats are doing? I am dealing with an aggressive cat as well. Thanks!
We tried the method suggested above with little success. There have been very tiny improvements, but still nothing we feel deems her trustworthy of being around other cats. The other two have essentially learned that she is stuck behind a screen, and thus have started feeling braver around her (as long as she's behind the screen). They will even sit right in front of the screen and will even play with her through the screen. However, we feel a good chunk of the time, her response isn't 'playing' per se, we think it may still be her feeling her territory is being threatened. There's definitely been times where one of them gets too close to the screen door and refuse to budge to the point M has a freak out and starts attacking the screen while screaming. So, I try to usher the cats away when they're hanging right outside her door. M can also eat just fine around the others as well.

We decided to test her and put her on her harness and placed her on a leash and decided to put her on opposite side of the livingroom as U. U seemed startled, like "Wait, she can leave the room?!" Meanwhile, M was thrashing about and rolling trying to get out of her harness so that she could get to U. Then the other night, U got loose while it was M's turn hanging out in the main living areas of the apartment. M tried going after U, and U freaked out, screaming. My partner managed to grab M before she could even get to U. M seems to at least get that when a human is intervening, it means no. She will try to retreat to her room when she sees my partner coming. But he'll grab her anyway and put her in her bedroom. So not a whole lot of progress. We are trying to think of other methods of teaching her that she the other two are okay. We've considered something as simple as water guns. I know a lot of people frown upon spraying cats, but we have used it on the other two and we only use it to stop crime in the making, not to punish.
 

maggie101

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teapartyon teapartyon , I wasn't totally able to follow along,but what if you let M retreat to the bedroom on her own instead of grabbing her? Cat being in a harness she has never been in before feels trapped,she cannot get out. When I rescued Coco she was under my couch for 3 monthss,bedroom a year then she came out on her own. Bedroom door was always open. First I had to feed her in my living room then very slowly in the kitchen. It probably took over a month. She now sleeps on the head of my couch. My cats eat in separate rooms. Peaches will fight with Maggie if she's in the kitchen with her so Maggie has learned not to do that. Peaches growls if me or Maggie gets her food. Some cats are very protective about their food. Maggie is very playful. Peaches is very sociable but has a time limit when she wants to play or be touched. Peaches is 11 yrs now! 6.5 pds and ruler!
 
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