From a Cat’s Point of View
The Disneyland Cats have been around for as long as any of us can remember. Our ancestors lived in Sleeping Beauty Castle before we were unceremoniously evicted. Ever since then, we’ve prowled the streets and walkways of Disneyland (and more recently Disney California Adventure). When it comes right down to it, we run the place. Without us, rodents would run amuck and the entire population of Disneyland would be a lot less cute. We put up with the humans visiting our quarters, but only because they leave at night. There are magical food stations positioned for us all around the property, and we get to eat whenever we like. Nowhere is off limits to us. Disneyland is OUR land. And we try our best to forget it was “all started by a mouse.”
From a Human’s Point of View*
(* Note: Remember to take everything humans say with a grain of salt. They’re not the brightest.)
It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when the first cats started to appear on Disneyland property, but there have been sightings going as far back as 1955. Soon after Disneyland opened, Walt 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 the sight—scores of feral cats had set up a home for themselves inside the building. Not only that, but the cats had brought with them an infestation of fleas. It became clear that something needed to be done about the cats, but the Disney company knew they couldn’t exactly “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, and so free up some valuable real estate. 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—and we’re not talking about 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 a relatively empty park, and they could hunt in peace.
It was around this time that someone in the Disney company must have had a pretty brilliant idea. The cats weren’t bothering anyone—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 cast members at Circle D Ranch (the same cast members who look after the Main Street trolley horses and the goats at Big Thunder Ranch, etc.) help manage the cats. They give them medical treatment if necessary, keep the food refilled, and generally look after Disney’s herd.
The cats actually live a pretty mundane life, similar to most other feral cats you might have in your 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 pet 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 cast members. The same is true of any new litters of kittens that are accidentally born on property.
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.