Animal Hoarders

As a veterinarian, I believe it is appropriate that most of the attention regarding hoarding focuses on the animals that suffer in these deplorable situations. But the hoarders need help too. In 2013, animal hoarding was recognized as a psychiatric disorder. The cause is still under debate. One theory suggests that hoarding animals may be caused by neglect or abuse during childhood.  Because the child didn’t have a good relationship with their human family, they form excessive attachment to their pets. Another theory believes the hoarder uses animals to replace human relationships. It is based on the observation that many hoarders start this behavior after the loss of a significant other.

When a hoarding situation is discovered, the attention is focused on providing care for the animals. The animals are removed, given veterinary care and then rehomed if possible. But what happens to the hoarder? Prior to 2013, most received some sort of punishment that included a limit on future pets. Unfortunately, this treatment failed miserably. Without addressing the underlying mental health problem that caused the hoarding, many will abuse animals again.

As with most diseases, early detection is the key to dealing with animal hoarding. If you encounter a potential animal hoarder, please notify your local police department or humane society. You will be helping the hoarder as well as the animals!


-Cassidy, Karen L. What is animal hoarding? Is it like hoarding objects? Can people be cured. AADA.

-Soler, Paula Calvo. Animal hoarding isn’t just gross, it’s a recognized psychiatric disorder. To Your Health, Desert Counseling. August 8, 2014.


Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.