The recent post on our Facebook page about a NW breeder and cat show judge gone horribly wrong received a significant amount of comments/private messages either condemning this person or asking for compassion and help.

The word “hoarder” was mentioned on more than one occasion. Help was often mentioned for the hoarder rather than publicity.  Cats were also mentioned, often times at the very end of a message in form of a couple of words such as “she needs help and the cats, too”.

Hoarding is a mental illness we were told and we should be empathetic. Hoarding is indeed a mental condition. One that is not acquired at some point, but rather one a person is born with much like the propensity to developing OCD or any form of addiction.

Hoarding is treated by specialists - highly trained psychiatrists and psychologist who have studied, lived and breathed this very subject for almost their entire professional lives.

Animal hoarding is one of the most abhorrent form of this mental illness as it involves living, breathing, feeling souls that cannot help themselves and often times suffer horribly at the hands of the hoarder.

But what is an animal hoarder and most importantly – how do you spot one? And what do you do if you are confronted with one?

This very educational and well written article deals with this particular subject on a high level, simplified basis.

  • The typical hoarder is female, middle aged between the ages of 50 – 60 years old, single/widowed/divorced. Note: Not every single 55 year old female with 5+ cats is a “crazy cat lady”.
  • Some are well educated while others are not. Animal hoarding afflicts all socio-economic backgrounds.
  • A hoarder tends to lack personal hygiene and often appears unkempt and disheveled.
  • A hoarder will not ever allow you into their home.
  • A hoarder does not have the ability to see what is wrong with their situation.
  • Hoarders think their animals are just fine even when it is very clear to everyone around them that they are sick, starving, without food, without water, without proper shelter or even dying or already deceased.
  • In more cases than not deceased animals are observed.
  • In all cases animals are sick and live in absolute filth.
  • Hoarders will not accept any help. You can try, but they know best and truly believe that only they can care for their animals. Everyone else is not up to par.
  • Their illness compels them to acquire more animals. They get a “high” every time they get another one.
  • Unfortunately, these days we do not just have breeders and pet owners who hoard, but also people who hide behind the “rescue” label.
  • The recidivism rate of hoarding is near 100% - even with intervention.
Wendy Blount, a renowned veterinarian specialist, wrote her master’s thesis on this subject. The bottom line is the same.  The hoarder is unaware of the situation around them and they are therefore not able to ask for help.

Dr. Blount started with 210 reported animal hoarding cases.  Not a single one actually had a hoarder come forward on their own volition asking for help.  All hoarding cases were discovered because someone alerted the authorities.

It should be noted that in the current case, some have asserted that the hoarder did ask for help of her own volition. That is not the case.

The hoarder initially asked for help with projects around her home, such as deck repairs.  Upon discovering the horrendous conditions inside the home, the hired help decided to focus on improving the life of the cats to the best of their ability.

Pictures and video were taken and subsequently, the hoarder was reported to the authorities.  When tipped off about the investigation, the hoarder “voluntarily” turned herself into Animal Control claiming to need help.

The notion that as long as there is a “safe way” for hoarders to come forward, it would somehow prevent these horrific cases of animal neglect and abuse is futile. Hoarders never ever come forward on their own because they are unable to recognize that there is a problem.

There is a difference between someone who has a lot of animals and suddenly cannot care for them properly due to illness or other extenuating circumstances and a hoarder.

The former will reach out for help at some point because they realize there is an issue and they love their animals enough to ensure that they are taken care of.  A hoarder is lacking this ability.  They cannot see what is wrong.

The initial inclination when dealing with a hoarder is often the desire to help this person “get back on their feet”. Because of the hoarder’s inability to see anything wrong with what they are doing, the likelihood of the hoarder getting right back to what they have been doing all along is near 100%.

In only 2 cases of the many that Wendy Blount examined was it possible to get the hoarder(s) on the right track to animal ownership.

It should be noted this was due to a concerted effort of animal welfare/control agencies in connection with trained psychiatrists.  Any laymen thinking that they can somehow facilitate a recovery on their own merely by cleaning and helping with the placement of animals even as a team effort is woefully delusional.  All they actually do is enable the hoarder to continue with their addiction.

Getting local animal services involved is a first step although these agencies are usually understaffed, overworked and operating under severe budget restraints. A hoarder poses a serious negative impact on their already strained budgets and many agencies simply ignore the problem.

Local laws also do little to address the specifics of animal hoarding.  Sure, there are limit laws, licensing laws and kennel laws – all designed to be used in the event of a hoarding situation.  These legislations; however, fail to address the root of the problem – the mental illness, a lifelong compulsory addiction to accumulate animals.

We certainly send sex offenders or alcoholics to mandatory therapy if they have committed a punishable offense. In only very few cases is this done in a hoarding situation.  Hoarders are left without the mental health care they would require if there was ever a chance of rehabilitation.

In the recent case of Kay Hanvey, many believe that they are somehow qualified to help this woman because they are breeders. They claim that irreparable damage will be done to the cat fancy if this is not dealt with away from the public eye.  We disagree.

We are very cognizant of the implications to the cat fancy as Bad Cat Breeders is comprised of a team of 5 people of which 4 are active registered breeders.

We firmly believe that help for a hoarder does not come in the form of a temporary band aid by providing clean up services or taking some cats, but rather by reaching out to the authorities and offering help, then stepping back and letting them deal with the situation.

They should simultaneously try to elicit compliance from the hoarder by implementing sanctions should the hoarder fail to comply with the local authorities, including revocation of registering privileges, stripping all cats of titles, revoking judging privileges, show manager privileges, etc.

Never, ever should a layman try to “help” this person.  They are not and never will be able to do so as they are not a trained professional.  Being a breeder does in fact not qualify them in any way, shape or form.

In this particular case, unfortunately, the cat fancy yet again missed the opportunity to demonstrate to the public at large that they are in fact a community of caring individuals who love to promote purebed cats.

A much stronger and quite positive signal to the public could have been sent by condemning the situation, reaching out to local authorities to offer help (this usually comes in the form of money and volunteers/rescues to take cats) and even looking for mental health professionals who can potentially affect an ideally permanent positive outcome.

The message that could have been sent – “we care, we help, we do not condone this type of situation, we are transparent” would have gone far with a public that has been made to believe you best “adopt, don’t shop” by many animal rights entities whose sole purpose are to take your money while provide zero services to needy animals.