Most visitors to Disneyland come expecting to see at least two mice: Mickey and Minnie, that is! Many visitors are shocked to find that even though thousands of people stream through Disneyland each day, dropping food and crumbs everywhere, the park remains largely pest-free. Although the park’s maintenance crew of 600 is hard at work every night, they have some unorthodox helpers. A small army of feral cats has kept Disneyland mouse-free since the opening of the park in 1955. Never heard of them? You’re not the only one!
In 1955, Walt Disney and his team of ‘imagineers’ decided they should renovate Sleeping Beauty Castle, with an attraction inside the castle towers. When they opened the door of the long-empty castle to start construction, they were shocked to see that it was overrun with feral cats, who had decided on the beautiful castle as their sleeping place of choice.
Although the cats were fluffy, adorable, and not really harming anyone inside the castle, they were also infested with fleas. Not willing to put down hundreds of cats for the sake of a few fleas, Disney organized immediate veterinary attention for all of the cats to get rid of the flea infestation, then adopted them out to workers and cast members. All the cats who were living in the Sleeping Beauty Castle found loving new homes, but before long, park workers realized there were still quite a few cats wandering the streets of Disneyland who weren’t a part of the first adoption campaign.
Putting the Cats to Work
Rather than go through another adoption campaign with the cats that were left, the Disney park organizers came up with a brilliant solution to a common amusement park problem. Leftover food and garbage always attracts rodents, so why not leave the cats in the park to eat their fill of mice each night?
In 2001, Disney officials put a system in place known as TNR: trap, neuter, release. They partnered with a local organization called Best Friends Catnippers to institute the program. This solution ensures that the population of cats never gets too unmanageable. Right now, the feline population of Disneyland sits at about 200. When the program began, each cat was neutered or spayed, given a health checkup, then released back into the park to continue living their independent lives. The same thing happens again every time park workers spot a new cat.
There are some discrete feeding stations around the park, and the food is refilled every day by the Circle D Ranch staff. The Ranch staff also make sure the cats are healthy and happy, and will bring a cat in for treatment if it seems sick. Even though they are given some food, the cats are encouraged to hunt mice at night instead of relying on the park staff to feed them. The program only really works when the cats are feral — having to feed and amuse 200 cats every day would just get to be too ridiculous!
Any time workers notice a cat becoming too friendly with visitors, or reliant on the food stations, they are taken to an agency to be adopted into a new home. New kittens that happen to be born on Disneyland property are also adopted, to try and keep the population low.
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