Disneyland, "the happiest place on earth," is home to more than just a wealth of fun attractions and memorable Disney characters - it is home to at least 200 feral cats that roam the premises at night. The cats began venturing into the park many years ago when Disneyland first opened. However, instead of treating the wandering felines as a nuisance, Disneyland decided to regard them as a potential benefit.
Back in 2001, Best Friends Catnippers learned about the numerous free roaming felines at Disneyland from a concerned volunteer. Soon after, Disneyland"s environmental division permitted Catnippers to bring in a team of veterinarians to spay and neuter the cats on premise. Later, Catnippers volunteered to sponsor the fixing of all the cats at a local veterinary hospital. Today, Gina Mayberry, head of Circle D Ranch at Disneyland, oversees this successful TNR (trap/neuter/return) program now assisted by Catnipper"s later program, FixNation.
Managing the free roaming felines
At a place so large and involved as Disneyland, it is difficult to keep on top of all the wily felines. But Circle D Ranch, with the help of FixNation, does quite a respectable job. Together they work year round to stabilize the population of community cats at the resort and ensure them a pleasant lifestyle. Five feeding stations are set up around the resort and cats are continuously trapped, fixed and released. Any kittens who are trapped are immediately put up for adoption.
"Our goal is to fix as many as we can," says Mayberry.
One setback to this goal, however, is dumping. The inhumane dumping of cats at the resort is highly discouraged and remains one of the primary causes of feline homelessness. While it may seem like the easiest option, it is neither smart, practical nor humane.
Working as a team
Every night, when all the diligent employees come out to make the park crystal clean, the free roaming felines partake in the clean up too. As an outdoor resort, Disneyland is bound to have some unwanted visitors occasionally. But Disneyland"s cats, as natural pest exterminators, do their crucial part in helping to keep the resort rodent-free.
"There is a great deal of lush vegetation throughout the resort which often will attract rodents, and the feral cats assist in keeping the rodent population down," says Mayberry.
Free of salary, the Disneyland cats gladly do this much-appreciated job and help to make Disneyland an even happier place to be.
The legacy of FixNation
In addition to their help with the TNR program at Disneyland, FixNation assists a wealth of communities around the Los Angeles area in the hopes of achieving the day of "No More Homeless Cats." Founded in 2007 by volunteers of Best Friends Catnippers, FixNation is an exemplar for any large-scale spay/neuter program.
"FixNation offers free spay/neuter services to caregivers of homeless cats, provides humane traps at no cost, and delivers comprehensive TNR training, together with a dedication to community outreach and public education," says Karn Myers of Best Friends Catnippers and FixNation.
Since its inception in 2007, FixNation has spayed and neutered an impressive 30,000 cats, adding on to the 16,000 cats fixed by Best Friends Catnippers. This year, FixNation is on track to fix an astounding 17,000 cats from around the Los Angeles area.
While their main clientele comes from the general community, FixNation also assists larger institutions, such as Disneyland, in successfully managing their community cats.
"We have considerable experience in dealing with institutional settings, such as oil refineries, college campuses, and office/apartment complexes, and do know that homeless cats can have a beneficial affect on particular venues where there are rodent problems," says Myers.
Working collaboratively, Disneyland, FixNation and Best Friend"s Catnippers are doing their part to humanely deal with community cat populations and more should follow suit.
"I am proud for the TNR program we have for the feral cats; it is not only a humane method of caring for and controlling the population, it benefits the resort as a whole," says Mayberry.
How you can help:
- To learn more about FixNation and how to volunteer or donate click here.
Photos by Sarah Ause