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What do you think about when you hear the term ‘cat hoarder’? You might think that anyone who has over a certain number of cats can be called a ‘hoarder’, but in fact animal hoarding is a serious situation usually caused by mental illness. A cat hoarder will have an extremely large number of cats, much more than a typical household, and they’re unable to provide decent standards of care, which sadly causes their cats to suffer.
Signs of a Cat Hoarder
Cat hoarders will live in houses that are overrun with cats, and will be dirty, untidy and smell of cat faeces and urine because they’re failing to provide their cats with proper care and attention. Most cat hoarders are in denial about what they’re doing, and often believe that they’re animal lovers just looking out for the best interests of their pets. Of course, other people will see that this isn’t the case from the condition of their home and their cats, so a hoarder is likely to be secretive about how many cats they have, and what condition they’re in, they may also be quite reclusive and not let people into their home.
Why do People Become Cat Hoarders?
Cat hoarders themselves may believe that they’re doing it for the love of cats, but the root cause is actually mental illness, such as OCD, personality disorders or delusions. A cat hoarder thinks that they’re rescuing their cats, but is blind to the harm and suffering they’re actually causing.
The Consequences of Cat Hoarding
When a high number of cats live together and aren’t being properly cared for, the results can be horrific. Parasites and diseases are transmitted much more quickly, and without veterinary care and attention, cats that are owned by hoarders can get very ill indeed. If a cat hoarder isn’t taking their cats to the vet for basic treatments, they’re unlikely to be spayed/neutered either, so the population continues to grow.
It’s not only the cats’ physical health that’s compromised at the hands of cat hoarders, their mental health and social needs are often affected. The more cats a hoarder has, the less human contact and interaction they get, which means they often become semi-feral. Just like humans, cats are easily affected by stress, so the tension caused by living in large groups can be a real issue.
A recent study shows that tragically up to 70% of animals rescued from hoarders have to be euthanized. Cats rescued from hoarders are likely to be suffering from physical illness as well as having social problems, so it’s not always that easy for them to be re-homed.
Don’t panic if you have more than the average number of cats – it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a hoarder! As long as you can provide the highest standards of care for all of your cats (including veterinary treatment) and they’re happy and healthy, then you’ve simply got a larger than average fur family!
Have you known any cat hoarders? Or been involved with rescuing cats from these situations? Please share…
Image: Marianne Perdomo via Flickr
Mark Maunz says
I live with my girlfriend who I love dearly. She has 11 cats that have all been fixed. She used to have 13. Sickness took one and old age with the other. I love all these cats as she does! But these cats constantly crave for attention. One of them is the biggest lover but is so overweight that it can’t even clean itself. Putting this cat on a diet would be impossible because of the others needing to eat. How can I ever get her to let any of these cats go somewhere that they can get the individual attention they so need?
I remember growing up there was one in a very nice neighborhood near us. It was so sad. As a kid we’d ride our bikes and when we turned onto the street you could smell it from several houses away. All the windows were covered with shades or foil, the yard was overgrown, and it looked spooky. I remember feeling really sad for the lady who lived there. I was very young but I remember thinking she must be very lonely to need all of those cats. 🙁
Victoria Carter says
That has always been my thoughts exactly, having 7 (used to be 8) pets, while a large number isn’t hoarding! All see the vet annually (or more often if needed), all have proper grooming and preventative/maintenance care (HW meds, flea/tick prevention).
Hoarding is a complex problem. Years ago I met a woman in the pet store who told me she had over 50 cats. She said she knew that was too many, but she had no one to help her with them. The local animal shelter told her she had to pay $50 per cat if she wanted to surrender them. She was really in a no win situation, because she didn’t have the money to surrender them. There was speculation that animal control was waiting for the problem to get big enough to make the news and then people would rush in with donations, etc. In the mean time, both the woman and the cats were overwhelmed.
Ellen Pilch says
Great post! I take hoarding seriously and when I reached 15 cats I started seeing a therapist. I know I can’t take care of anymore than that properly. One of mine came from a hoarding situation and half of those kitties had to be put down.
We just had #15 dropped off with us last night.
All of ours are well tended and see the vet.
They are all sweet and loving. We handle each one within their tolerances.
Two came from a hoarder in a flea-infested 2 bedroom apartment with a dozen dogs and as many cats & kittens as kittens and they have specific personality issues, but have over the years come out of their shells and even come to sit in our laps or snuggle while we watch TV.
We have 2 who are 17 and have heart murmurs.
Another who is 10 and recovering from urinary blockage.
Everyone else is happy, healthy, vaccinated, sterilized, and well socialized. They come looking for love and snuggles.
They all eat, sleep, rassle, play, and bathe together. Sometimes they fuss, but they stop when called down.
One is a 10 year old crosseyed siamese who doesn’t have good vision. She specifically doesn’t like boys, but that’s because she used to live with a Bengal who was unnusally aggressive. She specifically doesn’t like two of our males and they sometimes have very loud words. But no one is ever hurt.
We didn’t intend to have this many. We don’t go looking for them. We always say “no more.” And then they come to us.
I don’t think we could handle more. I hope we aren’t put in a position to have to choose whether to take one in or take it to the pound.
It is amazing how many cases of animal hoarding there are in my area. It is sad to see all of those animals pulled out of the home in the condition that they are in. Personally, I believe that the problem has to be solved by helping the humans involved to overcome their mental illnesses. Hoarders will just start hoarding again if they aren’t helped.
Jillian Cameron says
Stories about hoarding situations are always sad. One of the many reasons they break my heart is that the owners don’t know what kind of harm their putting their pets through. To them, they are doing the right thing and providing them with a home, and love. It’s hard to see someone go through something like that. Thanks for spreading the word!
We see hoarding situations on the news. Just recently nearly 100 dogs were rescued. It’s really sad to know these conditions happen.
At one point, my gramma thought Mom might become a cat hoarder as she had four cats, but it never happened. It is easier to hoard cats as they live in the house, dog hoarding is more difficult as they need to go out, etc. Hoarding of any kind is very sad and when animals are involved it is a real bad situation.
Great post! Thank you for sharing. Hopefully others will recognize the signs (some, in themselves) and a difference can be made. Such a sad and difficult situation.
Aimable Cats says
When I lived on the farm a few years ago, we had some intact ferals. At first, I was sad because we had to give the kittens away. Later, I was sad because they could not find good homes, or could only find other farms when I thought they would make good house cats. Many of the area rescues were either full, charged the old owner upon surrender, or both.
One cool spring morning I had all 11 kittens (and one of the queens) sleeping on my lap at the same time. One fall, we fixed four of that spring’s kittens (which were all that we still had from those litters) — that was all the spaces that low-cost spay/neuter clinic had available on their next available day. One of those fixed cats is now my house cat, and she does not particularly want another cat to live here.
We had a litter box in the shed, until we got a bad bag of litter and the cats stopped using it (a couple of months later, we had to move across the road and they had to move out of the shed). They went through about a 25 pound bag of kitty litter in a week.
My cat Sadie came from a hoarder. She was super thin and begging for love when I rescued her at 6 months old. It’s such a sad, sad situation.
Fur Everywhere says
I’ve never known any cat hoarders personally, but I used to watch “Confessions: Animal Hoarding” on Animal Planet. It is so sad for everyone involved. Most of the time, hoarders have OCD and/or have been through some serious trauma. They do love their cats, but they get addicted to rescuing cats and end up taking too many in. Oftentimes hoarders are people who are really hurting, and I think they should be show compassion from their friends and families.
Thank you for the informative post!
Wow I didn’t realize that high of a percentage of cats rescued from hoarding situations had to be euthanized. I’ve seen the deplorable conditions but usually when I’m reading about it or seeing it on the news it stops at “and they were rescued..” I never realized what happens after the animals are assessed. It’s a very sad situation indeed for everyone involved – and from what I’ve read the hoarders really do feel like they’re helping out by giving them a home. Just sad that it gets to these extremes.
the PDX pride says
Great post! Two of us, Little Bit and Stara, were rescued from an animal-hoarding situation. The people who originally had them were neighbors two houses down from Mommy and Daddy when we lived in Portland. The people originally had Starla and Boo-Boo Kitty when they moved in. They immediately abandoned Starla, who ended up in our basement/laundry room and developed severe anxiety because she is not suited for feral living with a clowder outside. The feral cats chased her. Boo-Boo Kitty got pregnant and had a litter of three. At the same time, the people got a puppy. The puppy ate one of the kittens. Another of the kittens, Smokey, was abandoned as she grew up and also ended up in our basement/laundry room. Smokey was eventually adopted to Mommy Erin. The third kitten, Little Bit, they kept. Fast forward a year. Boo-Boo Kitty got pregnant again with a litter of four, Little Bit had a litter of four, and the dog had a litter of 10 puppies! The people got evicted from their house because of the number of animals. They are barred from having animals again, ever, in the City of Portland. One family took in the dogs. We took in two of Boo-Boo Kitty’s litter, plus Little Bit and her four boys. We found homes for all the kittens and kept Little Bit. The people dumped Boo-Boo Kitty by a shelter that wouldn’t take her. Very sad situation!!!
When the cat is away says
That was a very interesting post to me, I’ve never heard (and thought of) cat hoarders before! I’m a bit surprised now, because it’s obvious that this happens.
Cathy Keisha says
If I wasn’t so jealous, I’m sure the peeps would be hoarders cos they hoard water and paper towels. MOL! I’m just kidding. Mitzi, the cat I was adopted with, was one of 26 cats whose human had a stroke.
Layla Morgan Wilde (Cat Wisdom 101) says
I found the Austrailian study you cited very insightful. I’m woefully behind in my research for the hoarding series I was supposed to write last year. Yikes, I need an assistant.
The Island Cats says
We hate hearing stories about any animal hoarding situation. The consequences are so sad.
Fuzzy Tales says
It’s a terrible situation, when this happens. Every now and again our local/regional news will report on a hoarding situation, definitely not limited to cats, sometimes it’s a mix of non-humans in the house. It makes me feel physically ill, as I’m sure it does everyone else.