Slowly I'm getting my new cat, Vladimir, back to where he trusts humans -- or, me at least. I got him back in the Spring, about 6 months ago, and he's finally where he'll occasionally actually come to me, albeit in an excruciatingly cautious manner that even a minor cough will spook him.
We still have a very long way to go.
He'll let me hold him when I'm laying on the couch, but he turns into a tangled mess of arms and claws if I try to sit with him in the recliner.
He'll let me hold him and introduce him to a male friend of mine, but claws, climbs, and jumps out of my arms if I try to do the same with a female friend.
All of these little lingering quirks, and all of the similar issues we had back when I first brought him home, combine together to tell me that someone -- possibly an older woman -- really mistreated him earlier in his life. The way he acted with my Dad tells me that perhaps older people didn't treat him well. Yet, he's perfectly fine with the ladies at the animal hospital.
I really don't know. All I can do is guess. But whatever happened to him before has made his trust very slow to come. Much slower than I was expecting, and much much slower than it did with Sergei (my late pet).
Please, whatever you do, if you have a pet, treat it better than you treat yourself. If you're unwilling, or unable, then give your pet to someone who will.
Pets only have love to give. There's no reason at all to mistreat them.