This week last year, Evie came to live with us. She was nearly 4 months old, weighed about 2 pounds, and had been rejected by the Humane Society for being too old and too feral (it would take too long to socialize her).
She lived for the first two weeks behind the toilet where she had food and water and the other cats couldn't reach her (though they showed remarkably little curiosity). Then she spent two weeks mostly under the bed, coming out at night to eat, run around, and use the litter box. She spent another month mostly under the bed during the day but some nights I'd wake up and find her sleeping next to me and occasionally she would sit in the doorway of the hall and look at me in the living room. She hid under a big chair in the office when other people were in the apartment.
After about 4 months, she would occasionally sit in my lap and she slept with me most nights. At fve months, in the full spring, I began letting her go outside, leaving the door open to the terrace and she would come and go. By the summer, she would stay out all night but come in and sleep in the daytime.
I had been told that she would never be quite socialized but fancying myself a cat whisperer, I scoffed at that. Now I think they're probably right. When I'm the only human in the house, she's much like the other cats: she makes herself at home, sleeps on a chair or in the inbox or comes to be held. Lets me know in a persistent squeaky voice that the food is running low or she wants out. But if there's a noise too loud, if the doorbell rings, if a voice enters our home, she panics, races to hide. Of if I hold her and move just the wrong way, she'll claw me and scramble down as if she doesn't know. As if she doesn't remember all the holding and stroking and quiet soothing.
Yesterday in the bitter cold, she wanted out. After two hours, I started calling. On the third trip out to the terrace, I could her plaintive reply and I coaxed her as far as the cherry tree but she wouldn't come in. I tried again 10 minutes later and she came to the door and stepped inside and something spooked her and she was off and down the tree. It took four more efforts to get her in and once inside she was fine.
I do not know what all goes on for her, what wildness and fear of humans clings to her psyche, but I have enough of my own long-lived demons to cut her a lot of slack.