ORLANDO, Fla. — If you’ve seen a cat dashing across your path at Walt Disney World, you’re certainly not alone. After all, the Pet Alliance of Central Florida estimates there are nearly 87,000 feral (or community) cats in Central Florida, and with such big numbers, it’s no surprise a few guests have seen feline intruders crawling around Mission: Space and hanging out at Disney Springs.
With so many sightings, some people have wondered if any of these cats could be permanent residents at Walt Disney World’s flagship Magic Kingdom park as part of a roving troop of feline cast members tasked with keeping the resort free of rodents and other pests.
And while this story may sound plausible at first, unfortunately, there is no evidence that a colony of furry employees truly exists at the Magic Kingdom, or anywhere else at Walt Disney World.
So where did this myth come from? Not too far as it turns out, as Disneyland actually does have a small army of feral cats that call the California resort home.
Disney doesn’t officially acknowledge this phenomenon, but fan site Disneylandcats.com recounts the tale of the so-called “Disneyland Cats” as beginning in the late 1950s, shortly after the theme park’s initial opening, when cats were found inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle during its transformation into a walk-through attraction. Not knowing what to do with the furry intruders, a plan was hatched where the felines were allowed to remain on property as a natural form of pest control, the site says.
Nearly 70 years later, the Disneyland Cats have grown to reportedly number around 200, and are supported by infrastructure created specifically for them, including feeding stations in strategic locations around the resort hidden just out of sight.
“They’re cared for by the Circle D Ranch team that handles the horses, and I know they’re fixed so the place isn’t overrun,” said Brian Pacifico of Disney history blog Park Lore.
When asked why Walt Disney World doesn’t have a similar program, Pacifico cited some key differences between the Orlando and Anaheim resorts: “I think Disneyland’s urban location makes it easy for cats,” he said. “I’m not sure how many would trek through the wilderness of Central Florida to find the Magic Kingdom, ([and) even if they did, I don’t think Disney World would have the same need to put them to work since there’s better infrastructure for things like trash and food.”
Though cats may appear at Walt Disney World from time to time as part of Central Florida’s natural feral population, the next time you see one scurrying around Orlando’s resort, you can rest easy knowing that they’re not on the clock. Just make sure not to feed or approach them (no matter how cute they are!) as feral cats can sometimes carry rabies, even at Walt Disney World.
And for those who want to know more about the working West Coast felines, you can find the Disneyland cats on Instagram and Twitter @DisneylandCats.