Feral Cats a Great Asset to Disneyland ParksKeith
Nobody is sure when the first cats started to appear around Disneyland property, but there have been sightings going as far back as 1955. Soon after Disneyland opened, Walt Disney decided that there should be an attraction inside of the park’s most prominent “weenie,” Sleeping Beauty Castle. When he brought imagineers into the castle to begin the planning process for what would eventually become the Castle Walkthrough attraction, he was greeted by quite a sight—dozens of feral cats had set up home inside thestructure. With the cats came an infestation of fleas. Something needed to be done about the cats, but the Disney company knew they couldn’t “eliminate” the problem without considerable uproar from guests. The immediate solution was to adopt out all the cats to cast members, ensure them good homes. They dealt with the flea problem as quickly as possible too.
Meanwhile, being an outdoor theme park with lands meant to simulate rustic situations, Disneyland had developed a bit of a rodent problem. While the irony was lost on no one in the company, Disneyland had mice running around—not Mickey and Minnie. There were also still plenty of feral cats on property who hadn’t set up shop in the castle. The cats were smart and realized they’d found a decent hunting ground on a property that was free of all the typical dangers stray cats have to face. They were able to emerge at night to an empty park, and they could hunt.
It was around this time that someone in the Disney company must have had a pretty brilliant idea. The cats weren’t a nuisance—feral cats, by nature, are scared of humans—and they were doing a much better job with pest control than any human exterminators were likely to do. So the cats were put to work. More accurately, they were allowed to continue doing the work they were already doing, but now it was with Disney’s blessing, and some payment.
A relationship between the company and the Disneyland Cats was established that still operates in basically the same fashion today. Feeding stations were set up around the property where the cats could get their fill when they couldn’t subsist on hunting alone. The cats were all captured and spayed/neutered before being released back out onto the grounds so that the cat population would remain under control.
The cats actually live a pretty mundane life, similar to other feral cats you might have in a neighborhood. Of course, they do so in the Happiest Place on Earth. They generally stay hidden out of sight during the day and only come out at night. There are exceptions, of course, and guests have been known to spot cats sleeping in the parks or otherwise slinking around property. As a general rule, Disney doesn’t encourage guests to get too close to the cats. In addition to the simple fact that it’s never smart to try to stroke a cat you don’t know, these cats are often better off remaining solitary. If cats start to appear too comfortable around humans, Disney will adopt them out to employees.
It is estimated that the current cat population on Disneyland property is about 200. Some of the feeding station locations where guests are most likely to spot a cat include ones near the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Disneyland, Taste Pilot’s Grill at DCA and White Water Snacks at the Grand Californian. Cats can also often be spotted in the Rose Court Garden at the Disneyland Hotel and in the ditch that runs parallel to the path for the Mickey and Friends Tram.