What is animal hoarding?

Featured on Episode 5


Animal hoarding is a compulsive need to collect and own animals.

The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium outlines four pieces of criteria for someone who engages in this type of behaviour:

  • Abnormally high number of companion animals.

  • Fails to provide minimal standards of food, shelter, vet care and cleanliness. 

  • Unable to see they're incapable of providing the minimum care and the impact of that failure has on the animals, the household as well as the human(s).

  • Gets more animals despite being unable to take care for the existing pets.

© Wikicommons

© Wikicommons

The internationally-recognized manual for identifying mental health conditions, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) listed hoarding as a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD) for many years. 

But there are some big differences between OCD and hoarding: 

  • People with OCD collect objects but then can forget about them, even ignore them.  
  • Medications generally effective for treating OCD don’t seem to really work for people with a hoarding disorder.

So in 2013, the DSM’s governing body reclassified hoarding as its own thing, with animal hoarding being a subtype.

Then, just last year, a study was released, suggests the animal hoarding is different enough from all other kinds of hoarding that it needs its very own classification of mental disorder.

© Rabbit hoarding image by Stefan Körner