Dear Pamela, I had the same experience with my "old lady" -- and she, in turn, endured the same behavior from my first cat here in Israel. I had a male cat I got to teach my Beduin sheep dog not to chase or try to kill cats. This worked incredibly well, after some very applied psychology (I began to give special treats to both the dog and the little kitten at the same time (protecting the kitten in my hands and putting a perimeter of chairs around my on my chair so the dog had to lean over a little to get his treat...))
After a few weeks., both kitten and dog knew that they got a treat when they were together, but never got one separately. After a few more weeks, the kitten began to play with the dog. Sheep dogs are incredibly gentle and careful when they decide something needs their protection, and Nemish totally adopted the kitten, tho it was only as big as his skull at that point (he was 9 months old and big).
About 3 years later Nemish decided to adopt a second cat -- a tiny little calico female who came to the screen door and cried to come in. Woof! Nemish said, calling me to come to the door. And Woof! several more times, a little whine, wagging tale, face expectant. So I took the kitten in. For 4 years, my first cat, Happy, attacked both me and the new cat (Gypsy). In the last year of his life, Happy looked like he ws at least reaching a modus vivendi -- he sort of ignored Gypsy and me except when we got in his way. Dogs killed Happy a year before Nemish himself had to be put down because of a long-term illness and a fast-growing cancer. During that year, Nemish pined away for Happy, and I think it helped him to stop fighting his illness.
Then Gypsy was the single cat, and she mellowed enormously and became very close to me. But, of course, I spoiled it by adopting two kittens from the street.
Now it is going on 4 years since I started to adopt and care for strays and ferals, and this past year, Gypsy seems to have turned a corner. I have never stopped talking to her whenever she is nearby, or making sure she is personally served with any special treats going. A little over a year ago, she began to unbend a little, inviting me to just touch her, but no more and only by invitation. for the past few months I have been able to stroke her gently from nose to tail (but NOT her tail), maybe three strokes at a time. At that point, her tail begins to stiffen and then twitch very slightly, and that's my warning to move off as if it were all my own idea.
So going into the fourth year, I see vast improvement. But I cannot trust her to react well if she is in a bad mood, I surprise or startle her, or I read her invitation incorrectly. At least now we have a kind of bitter-sweet relationship, and there is better harmony in the household.
My hat is really off to you. I think you take the record for maintaining a hostile cat in your household. I know, I know. You know it was your fault as I know it was mine when I took in Gypsy (and Happy went crazy), and then the kittens (and Gypsy went into psychotic jealousy). But SEVEN years!
I handled Happy badly. I still didn't understand cats and when he got to slashing at me or the new kitten or even is dearest friend, Nemish, I would take the broom and drive him from the house. I include Happy in my prayers of penitence these days. I know now what I did to his nerves and his soul by my gut-reaction to his violence. I betrayed his love by punishing him for a jealousy he couldn't really control in a supercharged situation. He scratched me, and instead of really understanding how to deal with it (in those days I was almost as neurotic as he was -- I very much feared getting scratched or bitten, and if I bled I felt as if I were going to die of a million cat-carried (mostly imaginary) diseases. Even with Gypsy, I started off only a little better.
But by the second year of taking in strays -- many of them totally dependent and helpless kititens who needed bottle-feeding -- I found my focus shifting from my own fear of claws to what the kittens needed. This led me to understanding of both myself and the cats at a much deeper level. So my treatment of Gypsy has been to always try to move a little closer to her month by month, even at the risk of her formidable claws and teeth. I understand that she would not attack me to the death (--that would be quite another kettle of fish!!), and that her aim is despair, a sense of loss, and to punish me like she feels she has been punished so unfairly (by my taking in rivals). I could the now occasional scratches and gouges not as vicious acts, but as understandable actions by a desperately unhappy cat, and I have sa twith her bleeding and in pain, talking to her gently about how sad it makes us both that we cannot find a pathway back to friendship at least.
So now I can report after three plus, almost four, years, that she has been responding.
Patience, patience, patience.
With each new cat and the problems of dealing with the growls and hisses (which are certainly normal), I now have a sort of procedure much like I think you, Pamela, or maybe it was someone else, recommended. But that's not the topic today....
Michelle, don't get another cat unless you are ready to stay home for the next few years and guard, protect, and apply psychotherapy on 24-hours a day call. When you have your own household and can perhaps (depending on the kind of work you do) spend the better part of your waking hours be available to your dependent animals, might be the time to feel comfortble about adopting a new grown cat into a household where you already have a serious problem. A lot of cats really don't enjoy other cats around once they become mature. They are by nature solitary animals. In general, they only become comfortable in a lion-pride situation when they decide their love for you is more important than their own unique territory. Even then, then choose and sometimes defend, their special place on the dresser, or their very own feeding dish. Each cat who belongs to a pride has a different place when they draw the line that demarks their territorial perogative. And as long as you (and the other cats and dogs, etc.) permit them that illusion of their own private spot, most of them will accept all the rest of the little invasions of their privacy.
Turn you psychology on your mother. Help her to see that Sasha is not mean or a monster, but reacted in some obscure cat imperative that you may never understand. Forgiveness has to be granted to her for killing her little ones, and you for not separating them immediately. Through forgiveness comes the kind of love and understanding that hopefully will smooth away all the rest.
I hope for peace in your household.