I went to Whidbey Island for my annual New Year's retreat this holiday season. I was planning to be gone 9 nights as I always am and my regular cat sitter, a lovely woman who takes wonderful care of my brood of felines, was here as usual. For the first several days, things went as planned. Sammy and Evie went in and out, and Kathy kept Evie in at night because of the cold. (Sammy can go either way.)
Then between night 3 and 4, something happened. Evie didn't come for dinner and when she showed up on the terrace the next morning, she wouldn't come in. She's always hesitant, always reluctant, always has to think about it for a good long time, but now she wouldn't even peek in the door. That was the last Kathy saw of her.
She appeared on day 5 at Melanie's, my next-door neighbor, who has on occasion fed her. She began feeding her again. At first, Evie would let Melanie pet her and then she wouldn't. She got more and more skittish, and then scratched Melanie's ear badly when she reached down to feed her.
All this time the weather was getting worse and worse: windy, cold, snow and ice. I was getting more and more worried. Finally on Saturday morning, day 8 of my trip, Melanie suggested I come home early to see what I could do. I had to teach that day up on Whidbey, so we left early Sunday morning to come home. We had terrible weather the last 65 miles and Portland was blanketed with snow and freezing rain.
As soon as I got home (3:30), I started whistling (all my cats are whistle-trained) and calling for her. Nothing. Then at 6:30, Melanie phoned and said Evie was on her porch. I called and whistled and she came right away to Melanie's backyard, crying and meowing. But she wouldn't come any closer. I spent an hour coaxing her in and finally, finally she came in. She ate and immediately got on my lap, where she stayed all evening. I kept her in until the weather cleared and now we're back to what passes for normal between us.
I don't know what happened to click Survive! Don't Trust! back into her brain. I do understand now why humane societies don't take older feral kittens. Their feralness is too strong. But I'm reassured that Evie still loves me and we can get along in her fashion.