I am new to the forum, and I am a new cat mom. I am feeling very discouraged and hoping for advice. I have been doing a slow introduction with my two cats, Marvin and Milo. They have been separated for two weeks today. I have been doing site switching and switching them back and forth. One cat will be in my fairly large bedroom, and the other will have the rest of the house. They have been eating 2 times a day on opposite sides of a closed door. For the last week and a half they have been doing so with no problems (right up to the edge of the door, no hissing, growling, both eating their typical amount). For the last couple of days the cats have been playing with each other under the door, or what I thought was play. There was no hissing/growling, just some chirpy meows and paws going under back and forth. At 3:15am this morning, they would not stop doing this (loudly), so I went out to the rest of the house and put that cat in the bathroom so they wouldn't have contact with each other to make noise.
I got up at 6:00 to get ready for work. Long story short, as I went to grab the cat in the bathroom to switch him out with the other cat, he slipped past me. The two cats were face to face and instantly attacked each other. When the cats first started fighting before I separated them, it seemed Milo was the aggressor, but this time there was no clear bully. They rolled around on the floor clawing for about 5 seconds. Finally I had the sense to clap, and one cat ran down the stairs. The other I put back in the bedroom
I feel like a total failure. I've been doing all the standard things for 2 weeks and then this happened so quickly!
Of course when I fed them before leaving for work, Milo still ate right up at the door, but Marvin would not come near the door and had to eat in the bathroom.
I have already had to take Marvin to the vet last week for an abscess that formed from their last fight before I separated them. He had an antibiotic shot, so I'm hoping that will prevent anything else from forming for him. Milo already had an abscess that I believe must have already been partly in place when I adopted him (since it formed only 2-3 days after I brought him home). But now I'm worried he could get another one. I am a young professional just starting out, so I of course don't have unlimited funds for vet trips, etc. Of course I can and will take him if he has been hurt, but I'm just discouraged. Right now I am living at home in my parents house, but I am moving into my own apartment April 1st. However, I am planning on moving furniture, etc. gradually and the cats last, so they won't have to deal with the stress of setting up the new place. I would be able to separate them at the new apartment if I had to, but they won't have as much space. I also won't have the help of my parents with switching, checking how they are doing with eating, etc. I had planned to try using a baby gate today to see how they did eating with that, but now that obviously doesn't seem like the appropriate "next step."
Both cats are indoor only.
Feliway diffuser was actually ordered yesterday so that will be on the way in a few days.
I was not educated at the shelter about how slow of a process this might be, and did not know about the standard way of introducing adult cats until the problem started, so please don't think I mean to be uninformed. Thanks for any advice and encouragement.