In July of 2018, the Idaho Humane Society performed a rescue of some 59 cats from a hotel room situated close to Boise Airport, which in turn, is situated south of Boise. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hotel room had nowhere near enough space and other resources needed to ensure the cats’ well-being, which is why nine of them have either died or had to be euthanized to spare them from further suffering in spite of the fact that close to $30,000 have been spent on medical expenses. Currently, the Idaho Humane Society actually has 77 cats in its custody because so many cats were pregnant when rescued, while the case against the cat owner Heather Hawking is still in the courts. Summed up, while the case is still ongoing, it seems safe to say that this is an excellent example of animal hoarding.
Why Do People Hoard Animals?
For those who are curious, animal hoarding is a more formal term for the kind of behaviors that a lot of people would associate with so-called “crazy cat ladies.” With that said, it is important to note that animal hoarding isn’t defined by the number of animals that a particular person owns. Instead, it is defined by whether said individual can take care of them or not. For example, if someone has 100 cats in their home, that is not a guarantee that said individual can be counted as an animal hoarder. However, if that same person is unable to meet the needs of the 100 cats to such an extent that needless suffering is inflicted on both them and their cats, that would make for a much stronger case that they are indeed an animal hoarder. For that matter, it should be mentioned that animal hoarders often have a serious case of denial about what is happening all around them. As a result, while there are lots of people who joke about being “crazy cat ladies,” chances are good that said individuals are just particularly enthusiastic cat lovers rather than anything that can even come close to being true animal hoarders.
Unfortunately, even though animal hoarding is a much more common phenomenon than most people would find comfortable, it is not well-understood. Due to this, there are numerous explanations that have been proposed, though some of them are more plausible than others. For example, one line of speculation is that animal hoarding is caused by people having been infected by Toxoplasma gondii, which is a cat-carried parasite that people might have heard about. However, while there is evidence to suggest that Toxoplasma gondii can change human behavior by causing the infected to become more willing to take risks, there is no real evidence to suggest that it can cause hoarding behavior in humans save that it can cause food hoarding in some rodents. As a result, when it comes to a potential relationship between Toxoplasma gondii and animal hoarding, it seems probable that it is a case of the latter causing the former rather than the other way around.
Instead, a better explanation is that animal hoarding might be connected to mental issues of some sort. One proposal is that it is a kind of addiction, which would fit in well with the denial that can often be found in animal hoarders, who tend to believe that they are actually helping the animals in spite of the evidence presented to them by their own senses. This proposal is particularly convincing because a lot of animal hoarders either had parents with substance abuse problems, have substance abuse problems of their own, or both. Another proposal is that animal hoarding is actually a kind of attachment disorder in which the animals become a sort of crutch for the animal hoarder because they have a reduced ability to form meaningful relationships with other human beings for whatever reason.
Ultimately, it doesn’t seem that animal hoarding is a problem that is going to go away anytime soon. In part, this is because it isn’t well-understood. However, it is important to note that it might not have a single cause but instead a number of causes, thus making combating it that much more challenging. Still, that doesn’t mean that combating animal hoarding isn’t a worthwhile endeavor, as shown by the good work of the Idaho Humane Society.