I just joined this forum last night in hopes of finding some advice to turn around an unfortunate situation I have between two of my cats. A little background info to start...
I have four cats. The first two, Jack and Jill, are litter mates. They were only a few days old when I took them in and needed to be bottle fed. They are now 1 yr and 6 months old. Next is Phil, who I also took in as a 2-3 week old kitten who also needed some bottle feeding. He is now 1 yr and 3 months old. Last, but not least, is Oprah. Oprah I adopted when she was about 4 months old. She was brought in to the the ER I worked at by a good sam after being hit by a car. She is about the same age as Phil. Jack, Jill, and Phil are all incredibly social with other animals and people. Oprah, while very social with the other cats, is definitely more on the skittish side when it comes to loud noises and strangers. All of them have their claws but are spayed/neutered.
Unfortunately there isn't a short version to the story so bare with me. The day after Thanksgiving I came home after working third shift to my fiance cleaning up urine and feces off our living room rug. He told me he woke up to Oprah screaming bloody murder and then finding the mess. I found Oprah cowering under the couch, pulled her out and took her to the bathroom. I gave her a bath (since she soiled herself) and set her up with a litter pan, food and water and left her in there in case she was sick and had any more accidents. I figured the whole thing was probably just due to her getting stuck under the couch and one of the other cats was chasing her but didn't want to take any chances. She was was acting completely normal, eating and using her litter box no problem. When I let her out of the bathroom she took one look at Jack and started hissing and growling. She was absolutely petrified of him. Jack on the other hand just stared her down like he would enjoy nothing more than to sink his claws into her. I have NEVER seen this side in him before. it didn't make any sense especially considering before I had left for work the night before they had been cuddled in a ball bathing each other on my bed.
So I kept Oprah in our bedroom, not Jack because our bedroom has always been Oprah's 'safe place' and she takes her regular daily naps under the bed. Another reason being that we live in a very small one bedroom upper of a duplex and Jack does not handle being confined for long periods of time. He is extremely vocal and scratches at the door. Sleeping would not happen for me or my fiance. For the next two weeks Oprah stayed in our bedroom, and from time to time I would let her out with the others only while I was there to supervise. At first she would peek out behind corners looking for Jack before advancing further. Over time she became more comfortable coming out while he was around, but I would have to sit right by her or physically hold Jack in place to keep him from running after her. His eyes would always be on her, that same evil demeanor out for everyone to see.
Then one day I noticed Jack was licking himself and growling. I found this odd, but after seeing him do it a few more times I felt his abdomen and sure enough I felt a firm bladder. A few hours later I took him into the clinic I work at and had him hospitalized due to a urinary obstruction. When I brought him home, it was a bit of a recovery process. All the while still keeping Oprah separated from him, but letting her out while I would feed Jack his urinary diet in the bathroom. Small improvements were made, on Oprah's part only. She seemed a bit more brave coming out of the bedroom and in his presence (again only if I was there to keep Jack from running after her). I had also purchased a calming collar for Jack, and saw no difference in his behavior, which makes me skeptical of using the plug-ins.
Then one morning our bedroom door must not have been completely closed and Jack pushed his way through and went after her. Horrible screaming and fur flying, I was able to pull Jack out from under the bed (I know people say you should never get in the middle in case you get bit or have the aggression redirected at you but it was all i could do to get it to stop at that point). So now I feel that we are back at square one. Today I switched them out. I put Jack in the bedroom with some treats and let Oprah out with the others for awhile. Hoping I could try giving Jack some time each day to roam around and get used to Oprah's scent again. When I switched them back Jack kept circling back at the bedroom door with his ears back and eyes fixed as if ready to attack. I feel like I only made it worse.
All that I have read so far about keeping them separated and then slowly reintroducing them using positive reinforcement all makes sense to me. However, I do not know how to reward Jack with positive praise or treats so that he associates positive things with Oprah's presence while he is in this hostile state of mind. ALWAYS, the sight of her sets him into his aggressive state. I feel like I would only be encouraging this aggression. Please, any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I can't help but feel at a loss right now=/
-Signed a troubled cat mom