The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Pour one out for Nutmeg, a Disneyland cat that inspired its own cocktail

An entrance to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
4 min

Disney may have been started by a mouse, but that’s no matter to the dozens — maybe hundreds — of cats that roam the company’s signature parks each night in search of errant rodents.

Now a high-profile member of that vermin-hunting squad is rumored to have died, prompting the feline’s legion of fans to memorialize its “gorgeous” tan coat and “terrific” hosting abilities. Nutmeg was especially likely to be spotted wandering around Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif., and visiting diners on the outdoor patio of Magic Key Terrace.

“Everyone who knows the @Disneyland cats is mourning the death of Nutmeg, a true celebrity amongst the beloved feral cats of @Disney,” tweeted cat behaviorist and YouTuber Jackson Galaxy. “We join everyone in mourning Nutmeg’s passing and give many thanks to Disney for elevating and embracing community cats!”

Nutmeg was so beloved by the staff of Magic Key Terrace that it created a cocktail in his (or her?) honor: a $16 concoction on the “secret menu” featuring dark rum, Irish cream, hazelnut liqueur and apricot liqueur. Another version, described by one blogger as “definitely a dessert drink,” is said to include half-and-half, raspberry flavoring and a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg.

“We have lots of friends that like to visit us and some of them are four-legged friends,” Disney California Adventure Culinary Director Jeremiah Balogh told the Orange County Register ahead of the restaurant’s opening in 2021. “We have a resident cat that will come and visit guests and cast members whenever he or she feels lonely.”

Nutmeg’s death early this month was previously reported by fan blogs WDW News Today and Disney Fanatic, which did not reveal how they discovered the cat’s demise. Disney did not respond to a request for confirmation Sunday.

Sometimes called “queen of the Disneyland cats,” Nutmeg inspired part of the aesthetic at Magic Key Terrace, according to SFGate reporter Julie Tremaine, who has written about the famed Disney felines several times over the years. A portrait of Nutmeg adorns the wall, and her face decorates the mosaics.

Disney’s cats, which mostly prowl the grounds at night, have earned a devoted fandom. An Instagram page dedicated to them has 114,000 followers, and thousands of other admirers keep up with the cats via Twitter and Facebook.

Legend has it that the felines may have been part and parcel of Disney history for as long as Disneyland has been around. Soon after the complex opened in 1955, Walt Disney walked into Sleeping Beauty Castle to begin planning the site’s attraction and was greeted by a horde of feral, flea-infested cats, according to the Cats of Disneyland blog.

The company dealt with this conundrum by adopting the castle-dwelling cats out to staffers, but many felines remained elsewhere on the property. Meanwhile, the blog says, Disneyland developed a rodent problem. Pouncing on the opportunity, the cats designated themselves official rat and mice hunters.

Officers rushed to help a crying ‘damsel in distress.’ It was a goat.

Disney eventually realized that this arrangement was mutually beneficial: The company could care for the cats and get rodent control in exchange. Staffers began to spay and neuter the felines to keep the population under control, and they established feeding stations throughout the parks, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2010.

Now, as many as 200 cats patrol the area with Disney’s blessing.

“We are not trying to get rid of them,” Gina Mayberry, manager of the ranch where the park’s animals are housed, told the Times. “They keep the rodent population down.”

Among the cats’ fans is actor Ryan Gosling, who was once a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s “The Mickey Mouse Club.” In a 2011 interview with comedian Conan O’Brien, Gosling said lore has it that the felines are “like commando cats” and live in barracks on the outskirts of the park.

“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,” Gosling said, “which is what I love about Disney, because they’re so weird and they think of everything.”