Sadly, stories all too often appear in newspapers about animal rescuers removing dozens of cats from a person’s home and looking for foster parents and new homes for the rescues. The stories are sometimes extreme, such as a couple sharing their home with 50 felines — foregoing their three bedrooms to the cats while they slept on the living room couch.
Animal hoarding is the compulsive need to possess and control animals and often involves someone acquiring a high and unmanageable number of animals. It’s unhealthy and deeply unfortunate for the hoarders and their family members. It’s a serious and, unfortunately, a growing problem, as a reported 250,000 pets hoarded annually. (And what about the ones that authorities are unaware of?)
Although animal hoarding is not yet formally recognized as a distinct psychological disorder in the psychiatric diagnostic manual, with a set course of treatment, the mental health community is trying to better understand and approach animal hoarding through a human lens. Fortunately there are laws about hoarding cats in every state’s Cruelty to Animals statute. Only one state, Illinois, currently has a legal definition of animal hoarding in its cruelty statute.
A problem always gets public attention when the media jump on the bandwagon and this time kudos go to Animal Planet with a new series called Confessions: Animal Hoarding, which premiers on the network on July 21st.
In each of the six episodes, cameras will enter the homes of men and women — from their early 20s through the retirement years — discovering what it’s like for animals and people to live in toxic conditions that result from an unbelievably large menagerie of animals that often focuses on cats.
The series will provide a forum where experts in psychology, veterinary health and leading organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States will address and unlock the problem on a national level. And each episode will delve into the hearts and minds of individuals afflicted with this disorder and provides a voice for the family and friends who are determined to prevent their loved ones from spinning further out of control.
I will definitely be watching. Probably with Fudge — she’s my TV buddy. It’s going to be interesting to see what type of response this problem will evoke from a feline perspective.