Most shy cats start to come around within their first three weeks of foster. At the end of Churchill's fourth week, he was still hiding, still hissing. We began to fear that he would never acclimate to people, and we started to look into barn placement.
I had started feeding Churchill in his closet. I gave him a quarter can of wet food in the afternoons, and then his regular helping of dry in the evenings. I'd also been feeding him kitty treats out of my hand. At the end of his fourth week, Churchill started yowling whenever I'd come take the old food dish away because he knew he was getting fed. Then on Friday, he started yowling for no apparent reason at all.
I came over and gave him a treat, and he started rubbing his head on my hand. Later, he actually came out of his closet to receive the pettings, but it wasn't all whiskers and purrs. Several times, he tried to grab my knuckle in his teeth, and I said, "Hey!" and withdrew my hand, and that made him hiss and run away. Eventually, I realized he was trying grab my hand and run off with it - you know, 'cuz my hand is magic and made out of treats. His attempts to do so broke the skin once or twice, but he's mostly done with that now.
Churchill has continued to make progress. He plays, grooms himself, eats and uses the litterbox whether or not we're around, only retreating to the closet to sleep. He's started to let my husband pet him now, too. He's also put on weight and cleaned himself up quite a bit since his arrival.
Churchill will be going back to the shelter, available for adoption, later this week. Whoever takes him will need to work through some of these steps again. I don't know if they will be starting all over, or if he'll just be skittish and shy, but at least now we know that he will eventually come around. He is very affectionate when he wants to be, but you have to let him come to you. I haven't picked him up or held him in my lap yet. He may get to that point, or he may not. He loves to play, but he still scares easily, so you can't play too aggressively with him yet. He's very vocal, by the way. You'll know when he wants something, even if you don't know exactly what it is that he wants. He does get bored and seek attention, so if he can be placed with another cat, that might be best. A home with a fenced in yard where he can watch birds and hunt bugs might help stimulate him as well.
I'll be tossing some pictures up here, but Churchill hasn't been too photogenic yet. Hopefully I'll be able to snap some tomorrow during the daytime.