May 12, 2015
Everyday about 200 feral cats roam of the grounds of Disneyland in Anaheim Calif. and they have a long history going back all the way to Walt himself. They serve an important purpose at the park as it’s natural pest control and have a gained an immense following.
The cats were originally discovered by Walt Disney after construction of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Disney knew he could not have the cats “eliminated” without public backlash so many were adopted to cast members, but some still remained in other areas of the park.
The park developed a rodent problem as it grew making the perfect hunting ground for the feral cats. They did not face many of the troubles stray cats typically encounter and they could come out at night to hunt and not be bothered by people.
The cats continued to provide pest control, but are now receiving some payment for their work. There are feeding stations around the grounds for them, almost all have been spayed or neutered and vaccinated and cast members that attend to the park animals provide medical attention when they need it.
The Disneyland cats have developed a loyal fan club including 8,000 Twitter followers and more than 18,000 followers on Instagram. “Disney has so many subcultures and cliques and social groups, and so this is just one of those little groups of people that love those cats,” said Shawn Marshall, an internet expert on theme parks and conventions.
They gained even more notoriety in 2011 when actor Ryan Gosling divulged during an interview with Conan O’Brien, “There is a belief that Disney has been, uh, breeding an army of cats.” He went on to assert that the Disney cats were specially trained “commando cats” that are sent out at night to patrol for mice. The interview later gave birth to a page on Tumblr.
The internet is full of people documenting the comings and goings and sightings of the cats as they are very elusive and generally avoid people. There is even a website, disneylandcats.com, with profiles, pictures and people’s personal stories of the cats.
One of the most famous is a Tortie named Francisco that receives special Twitter attention. Users post photos of him with the hashtag #FranciscoFriday and document his whereabouts. He is most often seen near the Grizzly River Run and according to his online profile he “dreams of piloting his own glider aircraft.”