Agressive behavior help needed - long
I apologize for the long first post, but I really need help. I have read different articles and most deal with agression towards people. Here's my story... (also posted on a couple other sites)
I have a 12 year old tabby, Max, that I raised from 5weeks. He has always been the only cat in the house. We moved into a new home about 10 months ago and he adjusted well. He has always been standoffish with other people. Once he gets used to you, he'll let you get in one pet and that's about it. His play with me often becomes bite-play. I never delt with it as I didn't recognize it as anythign more than him playing too rough (in hindsight I should have stopped it).
My girlfriend, Claudia, of 3 years became my Fiance' and moved in with me about 5 weeks ago. She has two 12 year old persians, Screamer & Princess (brother & sister). They are very affectionate and friendly, and have also been the only cats in thier house.
During the past 3 years Max has smelled Screamer & Princess on me and they have smelled him on Claudia.
We started by keeping them in seperate rooms and allowing each to have time to have run of the house. During the first week, I slept in Max's room. At the end of that week, we had a mishap that allowed the cats to be out at the same time. There was a lot of tension and Max was very agitated at one point and when I tried to get him back in his room he bit me on the hand. Serious enough to bleed significantly and require antibiotics. I chased him into the room very aggressively. After about 20 minutes, he did not seem concerned at about what he had just done. I started sleeping in my room after this.
We then went to stacked baby gates in the doorways. This allows for visual but not physical contact. At first there was a lot of hissing and growling from Max and none from the others. Soon, Screamer started to growl back. Claudia says he had never growled before. A couple weeks go by and we tried to allow contact a couple times, but Screamer and Max would start to get tense and we could see things begin to escalate. At one point, Max followed Screamer and when Screamer noticed, turned back and walked towards Max and Max started to get aggressive. They had fight-like contact, but not to the level of an all-out fight.
A week ago, we tried contact again. this time Max went straight for Princess (half his size) and chased her. I blocked him one way and he tried going around the other and I blocked him again. I was angry and I picked him up by the scruff. BIG MISTAKE. Another round of antibitoics and many deep wounds. I don't know what his intention was chasing Princess, but it did not look like curiosity. I think it was more my fault than his that I got bit.
All three went to Vet together for exams and shots, in carriers, all in the same exam room, last Friday. All are well. Too bad it wasn't a bonding experience for them.
The Vet suggested collective feeding, maybe in carriers. The problem here is that we free-feed and with our work schedule, they would be going to once a day. Not desireable, we think.
Another suggestion was putting Max in his carrier out in the main room with the others able to walk around him and such. We tried this when we got home from the Vet and Max got pretty pissed about being in the carrier, on the floor in the room while the others were walking around. They pretty much left him alone though.
We have asked about medication for Max, but have not heard back yet. The Vet wanted to do some research. I think she would rather not go that route.
I have tried Feliway spray, but it hasn't been very long.
They all seem to be curious about each other. When the baby gates go up for one, the other(s) will come to the door and sit for a few minutes looking in. Max will ususally growl some (less than at the beginning) when he is the one behind the gates.
So, thanks for reading my long winded post. We really need ideas here. Should we keep doing the same thing and try contact again in a couple weeks or what?
Thanks for the help.