This Week’s Creature Feature … The Cat’s Meow in Feral Cat Colonies

The cat’s out of the bag. And Calvert’s feral cats may be out of a home.    
    After nine mostly quiet years, Calvert County’s feral cat sanctuary is roiled by the national debate on birds vs. feral cat colonies. Now the county is divided over whether the managed population of cats should be allowed to stay on the county-owned tree farm in Prince Frederick — or be kicked out to fates unknown.
    While opinion rages on editorial pages and in supermarket check-out lines, maybe these cats should pack up their kitty bags and go to Disneyland.
    The famous Southern California amusement park is happy to host a large colony of feral cats.
    Within a year or two of the park’s opening in 1955, the cats began quietly moving in. Instead of evicting the felines, Disneyland put them to work.
    “We view them as partners. It’s kind of a symbiotic relationship with them,” says Gina Mayberry, head of Disneyland’s Circle D Ranch, the backstage area where Disney keeps its live animals. The cats, dubbed “natural exterminators” by Mayberry, keep Disneyland’s rodent population in check.
    By day, the 200-plus feral cats live hidden within the park’s lushly landscaped 85 acres.
    By night, they prowl for mice — not the two-legged ones wearing black plastic ears but the pesky rodents that come to feast on abundant trash.
    In 2001, the Los Angeles-based rescue organization FixNation helped Disney begin its official trap, neuter and release program to control the cat population. At five feeding stations around the resort, cats are continuously trapped, fixed and released. After the cats are neutered and returned to the park grounds, they receive continuing care. Kittens are put up for adoption.
    The cats are free to roam the park as they please. But don’t worry that Mickey or Minnie will be unexpectedly pounced on by one of Disney’s exterminators. The cats prefer to stay out of the public eye.
    “We want to keep them feral so they don’t find the need to associate or interact with people,” says Mayberry.
    Housing, food, health care — and a job. Sounds like the cat’s meow.