53 facts and thoughts about cat hoarding
Here are 53 facts interspersed with some thoughts of my own about cat hoarding. The facts come from studies and therefore they are scientifically based. There may be some overlap in these facts. The information comes from several scientific studies including those referred to in The Welfare of Cats. The facts are presented in bullet fashion and have been listed as they occur in my research. The research comes mainly from the US and for comparison I have included research from Serbia.
- In America, 76% of cat hoarders are female and nearly half are 60 years of age or older and most are unmarried and live alone.
- In a major American study (Patronek 1999), 11% of the hoarders were younger than 40 years of age.
- In the same study, 72.2% of hoarders were reported to be single, divorced or widowed.
- 55.6% were described as living in single-person households whereas 14.8% were reported as married or living with a significant other.
- In this major American study, the average number of animals hoarded was 39 but there are four cases of a hundred animals or more.
- In 35.2% of cases only one species of animal was involved whereas in 31.5% of cases two species were involved, 22.2% of cases three species were involved and in 11.1% of cases four or more species were involved.
- In 80% of cases animals were found dead or in poor condition to extreme malnourishment, disease or injury.
- In 58% of these cases the hoarder would not acknowledge to the investigating officer that the problem existed.
- In 42.6% of cases the hoarder knew all the animals by name whereas in 33.3% of cases the hoarder did not know the animals by name but only new a few of them by name.
- In 77.6% of cases the homes were described as heavily cluttered and unsanitary and it 69.4% of cases there was animal faeces and urine in the human living areas.
- In 32.7% of cat hoarding cases there was no working bathroom and in 20.4% of cases there was no working cooking facilities.
- In 20.4% of cases there was no refrigerator and no working heat in 14.3% of these homes.
- In 26.5% of cat hoarding examples the hoarder’s bed was soiled with human or animal urine or faeces or both.
- It seems to me that one aspect is that the people involved cannot cope and I would argue they can’t cope in general not just because they have too many cats. These are people who would need help even if they were not hoarders.
- Dead animals were found in 59.3% of residences.
- In 84.2% of cases the clutter prevented normal movement around the home.
- The hoarder recognised the lack of sanitation in 26.3% of cases.
- In 25.9% of cases, there was extensive accumulation of newspapers and in 38.9% of trash and in 16.7% pet food.
- The resumption of hoarding was common after a case had been dealt with and closed. Hoarders often disappear and resurface months later in a different neighbourhood, hoarding all over again. One woman was reported purchasing a new home every few years and reducing it to an uninhabitable level each time.
- In 26% of cases the hoarder was placed under guardianship, institutional care or some form of supervised living and in 11% of cases the hoarder’s home was condemned as unfit for human habitation.
- 70% of hoarders were prosecuted and prohibited from owning animals for a period and in 80% of cases the hoarder was monitored.
- In 24% of cases the hoarder underwent psychiatric evaluation.
- A small number of hoarders are prosecuted serving short jail terms of between 10 days and six months. This indicates that the authorities see crimimal proceedings and punishment as unsatisfactory.
- Sometimes a range of public services are involved in dealing with cat hoarders including child welfare, mental health, fire, sanitation, departments dealing with elderly people.
- The fact that at least 1/4 of hoarders were subsequently institutionalised or placed in guardianship indicates that they were suffering from early stages of dementia or unspecified psychiatric conditions.
- The news media often write about cat hoarding cases because they are extreme and sometimes bizarre. They are sensationalised in news media.
- Prosecution is an incomplete solution in most cases.
- In Serbia, 77% of cat hoarders are women and 23% are men as per a study in that country. They are mainly widowed, divorced or single women and men (75%).
- In Serbia 25% of the cat hoarders are family members living in families
- Generally hoarders are on low incomes and educated up to secondary level.
- In general, cat hoarders are unemployed.
- In Serbia dogs rather than cats are the most prevalent species to be hoarded at 56% dogs and 21% for cats.
- Sometimes other animals are hoarded such as farm animals and wild animals.
- Cat hoarding varies in severity from say 10 cats living in just about passable conditions to over a hundred living in a home which is uninhabitable and covered in urine and faeces as well as dead and sick animals.
- My neighbour is a cat hoarder. She is also a hoarder of other objects. There appears to be an overlap and a person predisposed to hoarding in general is the type who might end up hoarding cats.
- In America, although hoarders accumulate other species of animal, cats are involved in 65% of cases.
- In 1997, in America, an interdisciplinary group was formed to deal with this matter: Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium. The objective was to develop improved interventions, to research, and provide veterinary support and public education.
- Cat hoarding is a major form of animal abuse and of human mental illness. I would suggest that not all cat hoarders are obviously mentally ill but perhaps suffer from a borderline mental illness such as extreme anxiety and hoarding helps to deal with anxiety.
- In the worst cases of cat hoarding, the perpetrator is probably mentally ill or suffers from dementia and the animals suffer severe abuse through neglect.
- These hoarders accumulate large numbers of animals which overwhelm them and they can no longer care for them.
- They often fail to recognise the fact that they are harming the cats in their care despite the fact that they profess to love cats. They also fail to recognise the harm that hoarding cats are doing to them in their lives.
- It’s been suggested that if people have human-like expectations of cats which are not met or when people over-empathize with the animals, abuse and hoarding may result.
- In Serbia, a study found that the predominant type of cat hoarder was an overwhelmed caregiver (50%) compared to a rescuer hoarder (35%) or an ‘exploiter hoarder’ (15%).
- In Serbia 35% of the hoarders surveyed had up to 50 animals, 52% had between 51-100 animals and 13% had over 100 animals.
- The response by law enforcement to animal abuse by cat hoarders is often inadequate. This is because proactive steps were not taken and therefore animals have suffered, and the hoarder will often go back to their same habits after punishment.
- In my experience, nothing or little is done proactively to prevent hoarding such as an ordnance (local legislation) which limits the number of cats that a person can keep to, say five per household. Perhaps this sort of ordnance has not been enacted because it is impossible to enforce.
- Normally, the only way hoarding is dealt with is through the criminal process after a neighbour reports smells emanating from the house where the cats are kept. It is an inadequate situation.
- There have on occasions been attempts to resolve these problems by creating new laws addressing animal hoarding but they had been controversial and ineffective.
- Sometimes cat hoarders operate on social media such as Facebook presenting themselves as cat rescuers and acquiring cats through Internet connections only then to hoard cats and harm them. One good example was: Julianne Westberry saga – seeking closure – identifying cats.
- In one major study, the average number of people per household in a cat hoarding home was 1.6.
- Only in a low number of households were their children ranging in the age from 2-15.
- 71.7% of the homes were single family homes, 13.2% were house trailers, and a small proportion were apartments or condominiums.
- 51.9% of the cat hoarding homes in a major study were in urban areas, 27.8% were in rural areas and 20.4% were in suburban areas.
Below are some more articles on hoarding.