On feral cats, property management companies should learn from Disneyland

In America, and in other developed countries, property management companies i.e. businesses managing apartment complexes acting on behalf of the freeholder, have a tendency to consider feral cats as a nuisance and as animals who spoil the amenity of what are often high value residential estates. They think that the cats spoil the appearance of the place and they want to get rid of them. This seems to be the starting point by many managers.

In contrast to that approach, the managers of the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, have taken a far more enlightened approach in developing a relationship with the hundred cats on their large estate in which both Disneyland and the cats benefit.

Paying public want to photograph the Disneyland cats
Paying public want to photograph the Disneyland cats. Screenshot from YouTube video on the cats.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Mutual benefits – symbiotic

Feral cats are often semi-feral and are therefore better described as community cats. They are often approachable and may, in fact, be almost domesticated. Of course, they may be abandoned domestic cats. There will be a range of levels of domestication within a feral cat colony. Disneyland decided that their community cats could help to keep down the rodent population and they rely upon their staff to look after them which they do willingly, in conjunction with local veterinarians. They have feeding stations and shelters on the estate and the cats are well cared for with flea treatments, spaying and neutering and vaccinations. It’s a classic TNR situation only organised within the resort. There are no incidents between the cats and the paying public other than pleasant interactions.

Alternative is good PR

It seems to me that the administrators of property management companies are often unaware of the benefits of building a symbiotic relationship with feral cats rather than simply trapping and killing them. And if you want to approach the issue from a purely commercial standpoint, it actually looks good to the public if property managers take an enlightened attitude and take care of the cats. It is good publicity. And the public are tuned in to this.

Fan club

The Disneyland community cats have a huge fan club. On Instagram they have more than 85,000 followers and on Twitter there are 16,000 followers. These are big numbers which strongly indicate that the public are fond of the ‘Disneycats’. They are an asset to the Disneyland resort in Anaheim. I’ll presume that the same management approach is taken at other Disneyland resorts.

Ryan Gosling

Gosling discussed them on a talk show which added to the cat’s public profile.

And at night, when they close the park, under the cover of darkness, these cats ascend into the park and they eat all the mice … which is what I love about Disney, because they’re so weird and they think of everything.

Alley Cat Allies advice

Alley Cat Allies (AAA) recognise the difficulties that residents in residential complexes can have with property management agencies. There will be residents in a large complex who don’t like the cats and there will be others who like them. There is therefore an inbuilt conflict about their presence but agreement should be sought on how to manage them along the lines at Disneyland.

AAA advise residents who care about the cats to communicate with property management to build a formal approach towards the cats. Sometimes management companies dictate that they are going to trap the cats and remove them. There is no discussion. This sort of event needs to be avoided in the interests of cat welfare. This can be achieved by taking proactive steps in discussing the matter with the management agency.

AAA also advise residents to educate, for want of a better word, property managers on how best to deal with the cats. This is because often they are unaware of alternatives to trapping and euthanising. A lack of education may also be a problem with respect to neighbours living on the estate. It will take effort to build an awareness of the best ways to deal with the matter and a knowledge of local law governing non-owned cats is also useful.

Feeding

AAA can do a better job than me in going over all the angles on managing community cats. The point of this article is that Disneyland leads the way on how to work with community cats on a large estate where there is food which is why they end up there in the first place. When there is a steady supply of food and there are stray cats in the area it should be unsurprising that they might form a colony around the food source.

The food source in apartment complexes is going to be some residents who are concerned about cat welfare and who feed them. It’s important that the feeding of community cats is carried out precisely and in a controlled way because it can be a source of aggravation among neighbours because those who don’t want the cats argue that putting food down attracts unwanted, nuisance wild animals. Therefore feeding should be carried out at a set time and the food taken up after feeding time has elapsed. TNR stabilises the population and if the management of semi-feral cats is carried out properly there should be a harmonious relationship with them in which they enhance a property estate.

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