Dear Christopher Cat
My neighbor has dozens of cats, both indoors and outside. Does that make her a hoarder? How can I encourage her to stop acquiring more cats and kittens?
By itself, the number of animals your neighbor has doesn’t make her a hoarder. After all, our family comprises four cats and four dogs.
An animal hoarder is someone who has many animals; doesn’t provide adequate nutrition, shelter, sanitation and veterinary care; and doesn’t recognize the problem.
The result is overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, starvation, disease and sometimes death.
Because hoarders don’t recognize the harm they’re causing their animals – or the humans in the family – the situation continues to deteriorate.
If this description sounds like your neighbor, she may be a hoarder and need help.
Sometimes friends find homes for many of the animals and pay for food and veterinary care for those that remain. Unfortunately, this help alone rarely solves the problem, because in almost all cases, the hoarder acquires more animals.
Intervention must involve experts from an animal welfare organization, social service agencies and sometimes law enforcement.
Depending on the situation, talk with social service providers who specialize in mental health, public health, and protection of children and the elderly.
For more information on animal hoarding and how to respectfully help your neighbor, visit the Web site of The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium at www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/.