We recently got an 8 month old cat from a breeder, it had lived its live in a cage with the rest of the litter up to that point. The car journey home was about an hour and the whole time I had my hand in the carrier and was stroking her gently. She didn't seem afraid at all, and made no attempt to leave the carrier.
When we got to our apartment I made the mistake of not confining her to just one room and I think she got a bit bewildered. For quite a while she just sat in the carrier and didn't move. I was able to pick her up and hold her without any apparent problem.
That night she peed and pooped on the sofa :-( So we decided to confine her to the kitchen with everything she needed. However, it was now impossible to get close to her to take her to the kitchen. We tried twice to corner her and pick her up but that just ended up with my arms all scratched up and her hiding under the sofa. My wife and I were starting to get a bit desperate.
In the end we managed to "herd" her into the kitchen without having to get too close. However, I think the failed attempts to "grab" her have traumatised her and made her really afraid of us.
She spent the next few days in the kitchen apparently fine. She ate well and did her business in the litter tray, but would always run and hide when any of us entered the kitchen. After a week in the kitchen (and having thoroughly cleaned the sofa!) we let her roam the living / dining room which is pretty large. She seems to be fine with that (and hasn't peed where she shouldn't). We've also managed to play with her with a stick with feathers on the end, but as soon as we get any closer she runs away. Petting her is almost impossible.
What can we do so she stops being afraid of us? She's a gorgeous cat and I just want to have her purring on my lap as I watch TV, and that seems like it will never happen the way things are currently.
FOLLOW UP: about 3 weeks after posting this question, without any of us doing anything in particular, just mostly ignoring the cat and trying not to get in its way, she gradually became more and more friendly to the point where she now always follows us around the house and will purr away endlessly as we stroke her. She now has no fear of us at all. I guess it really was just a question of time!