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What is Pet Hoarding?

At one time or another, most of us have encountered that little old lady with dozens of cats running around her house. While we probably didn’t think much about it other than to think that the little old lady was eccentric, it’s quite possible she was a pet hoarder and suffering from a psychological disorder. This would be a psychological disorder that the psychiatric community refers to as an animal hoarding disorder.

In the following sections, the discussion is going to focus on animal and especially pet hoarders, the causes, and the possible solutions to such a horrible psychological disorder.

The Hoarding Definition

Hoarding is a general classification of psychological disorders. Whether it be newspaper hoarding, food hoarding, or hoarding dogs or cats, the profile of a hoarder is very similar. Before discussing the causes of hoarding, it seems prudent to offer a general hoarding definition for a better understanding of what’s going to be discussed below.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hoarding is “is marked by an overwhelming desire to collect items and an inability to discard things that may seem useless, to such a point that the collections cause stress and start impacting a person’s health, career or relationships.”

Based on this definition, you should be able to see that hoarding disorders can be quite serious. While the psychiatric community has limited knowledge about why a cat hoarder would hoard cats, there are certain characteristics that are shared by pet hoarders with no regard to the type of pets they are hoarding. More on the characteristics of pet hoarders are featured below.

Who are Pet Hoarders?

Before proceeding, let’s look at what exactly would qualify as the hoarding of pets. In case you are wondering, how many pets is considered hoarding is not really a relevant question or barometer that’s used to define this kind of hoarding. The hoarding of pets becomes a hoarding disorder when the hoarder has accumulated more pets than they are capable of handling. Furthermore, they cling to their pets while finding it very difficult to bypass taking other animals in or letting go of even a single pet.

Who are Pet Hoarders?

It’s really important to point out that most pet hoarders really have the best of intentions. They love animals. They also feel as though they have an obligation to protect and care for animals that no one else seemingly wants. At issue is the fact they don’t know when to stop. Eventually, their hoarding leads to a number of very serious personal and community issues like

  • Health risks to the animals because of lack of care (grooming, insect infestation, disease, malnutrition)
  • Strain is put on personal relationships with family and friends
  • Unsanitary conditions in the home due to pet urine/feces, insect infestation,
  • Inability or unwillingness to control pet reproduction, which leads to a larger hoarding population
  • Personal health issues due to exposure to unsanitary conditions
  • Public health concerns as odor and insect infestation affect adjacent homes and neighborhoods
  • Financial stress due to efforts to care for too many pets
  • Isolation from society, which often results in further psychological issues

For what it’s worth, there is a general profile of the individual who becomes a victim of this form of hoarding. The general characteristics of a pet hoarder include:

  • Approximately 70% of them are women between the ages of 50 and 59
  • They tend to live alone and isolated
  • They have a strong desire to rescue strays
  • They often neglect their pets, resulting in inhumane treatment and conditions
  • A cat hoarder is the most common type of pet hoarder

What Causes the Desire to Hoard Pets?

As was suggested above, it’s very difficult to discern why people hoard pets. However, there are what seem to be common causes of this type of hoarding.

First and foremost, all hoarders, regardless of the object or object they are hoarding, seem to suffer from psychological issues like depression and anxiety. They use their hoarding activities as a way to fill the isolation they feel inside. Instead of seeking companionship from humans, pet hoarders turn their needs towards animals.

What Causes the Desire to Hoard Pets?

While turning their need for connection to pets, they go overboard. They don’t seem to be able to get enough comfort no matter how many animal friends they have accumulated. There is also sufficient evidence to suggest that hoarders have experienced some form of trauma or abuse in their past. Again, they find comfort in saving animals, which helps give them a sense of purpose.

Finally, genetics might well play a role in someone getting hit with a hoarding disorder. It’s not uncommon for someone who is hoarding dogs to have had a past connection to a family member who exhibited similar pet hoarding traits.

Treating Pet Hoarders

Clearly, pet hoarders are suffering from a very serious disorder that warrants immediate help. Hoarding help can come from a lot of sources, but therapy with a psychologist or licensed therapist is always a good place to start. The task at hand is to identify the approximate cause of the disorder. That opens the door to developing a specific set of coping skills that will help the patient manage their triggers.

Unfortunately, there are extreme cases that require law enforcement intervention. That would include a call to the animal control department. They would be responsible for retrieving and dispersing the hoarded pets as they see fit.

Another part of the treatment process is saving the pets in question. Given the possibility that the welfare of hoarded pets has been ignored, even to the point of abuse, most pets need immediate care. They will also need help from a shelter to find them a new home.

Finally, someone has to address hoarding cleaning. As was indicated above, there is a distinct possibility that the pet hoarder’s home reeks of foul odor and possibly some kind of a pest infestation. That all needs to be cleaned up for the benefit of the afflicted individual, any remaining pets, and perhaps the surrounding community.

If you need hoarding cleanup in Denver CO, please give us a call. We will respond as quickly as possible to help you reestablish order in your home. You can count on us to provide our services at prices that are competitive and affordable.