Bradshaw JWS, Horsfield GF, Allen JA, Robinson IH (1999) Feral cats: their role in the population dynamics of the Felis catus. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 65: 273–283.
The so-called domestic cat occupies a unique position within the truly domestic animals since it freely interbreeds with feral populations, and there is considerable gene flow in both directions. This is possible because the likelihood of an individual cat forming a relationship with people is strongly affected by its experiences during the socialisation period (3–8 weeks of age), although this does not preclude differences between owned and feral populations in the relative frequencies of alleles which affect social behaviour towards humans. We suggest a hitherto unconsidered reason why a separate domesticated population of cats (apart from pedigree breeds) has not yet emerged: the unusual and stringent nutrient requirements of the cat may historically have militated against successful breeding on a completely human-provided diet, and led to the retention of the ability to achieve a nutritionally complete diet by scavenging and/or hunting. More recently, the widespread availability of nutritionally complete manufactured foods and veterinary care in western countries appears to be leading towards a rapid change in the population dynamics and population genetics of both owned and feral cats.