drawing of Cheshire Cat

If you look carefully, you’ll see more than just the Cheshire cat.

Southern California’s Disneyland is considered the “happiest place on earth.” From the shining spires of the Magic Castle, to the merry shops on Main Street, Disneyland feels like a miraculous land far removed from any unpleasantness of the world. This children’s paradise is kept up by over 600 employees to retain the park’s resplendent condition. One lesser-known fact about Disneyland, is that the park also employs almost 200 feral cats. While the custodians clean the park, replacing light bulbs, touching up paint, and scraping gum off the sidewalk; the Feral Cats of Disneyland go to work!

Amusement parks are daily traversed by thousands of crazed kids and their wild-eyed parents; by high school and college students racing around from ride to ride on a sugar-high caused by slurpies and ice cream, candy corn, cookies, soda, popcorn, hot dogs, churros, lemonade and lollipops in the shape of Mickey Mouse! With the hundreds of snacks purchased, munched, trashed and forgotten, there are bound to be scraps on the ground to tempt mice, rats and other scavengers to come to the after-hours feast. This is where the feral cats come into play.

When the Los Angeles location of Disneyland opened in 1955, feral cats began to roam the park when all the visitors had let, to hunt for any rodents they could find feeding on crumbs. Though gates may keep people out, cats can usually find their way in, and for years they were congregating in the Magic Castle. Once discovered, the Disneyland employees decided to work with the cats instead of against them, providing shelter and protection, in exchange for letting the cats prey on any detestable rodents that follow the crowd. The employees arranged to spay and neuter the feral felines to ward against diseases and increased cat population. Once the cats have been fixed, they are marked so that any new cats might undergo the same treatment. The staff workers, who assist animals at the Circle D Ranch part of Disneyland, help care for the cats by filling the feeding stations and providing medical assistance or treatments when needed.

The cats are able to eat from 5 designated feeding locations throughout Disneyland and California Adventure every night, in case the rodent population isn’t a sufficient diet. The felines then retreat during the day, find hiding places around the park. Feral cats are instinctively afraid of humans, and are inclined to be aloof and withdrawn, so Disneyland hasn’t faced any serious problems with the cats being nuisances at the park. Most guests attend dozens of times before they ever see one of the Disney cats!  However those that do seem to get too friendly, are quickly snatched up and adopted by Disney cast members so that they will have a good home, and won’t bother patrons at the park. The same is applied for any litters of kittens which may accidentally be born on site.

In housing and caring for these cats, Disney has exemplified an effective way to help animals in need. We will say however, that is it incredibly ironic that the 200 feral cats are owned by a mouse!