Who's a Hoarder, and How Many Pets is Too Many?

Patty Khuly, DVM
Published: January 20, 2011
Who's a Hoarder, and How Many Pets is Too Many?

With all this attention being afforded to hoarders of all stripes (reference a veritable media explosion on the discussion of animal and non-animal hoarding), I've noticed a trend towards a demonized depiction of the so-called, "crazy cat lady." This is of great concern to me ... and to my high-volume pet clients. So to that end, I pose the question: How many is too many?

As you might've expected, I'm of the opinion that there's no hard and fast rule here. I've been to a tony (albeit tiny) high-rise apartment on Miami Beach (on the water with an amazing view, no less) where twenty-six cats resided, and for which I could find no fault. And I've been to places where the living conditions of a mere six cats would break your heart.

So what's too much? My definition may differ from yours, but here's my attempt to reconcile my compassion for the human need to keep animals close, while accounting for the capacity to care for them:

When your ability to care for each individual animal is overwhelmed by their sheer volume ... you're a hoarder.

This definition has nothing to do with a number. It's to do with an individual's resources more than anything else.

After all, I have visions of the frail, elderly woman I plan to be. And she has pets she could not possibly care for without assistance. She does, however, plan for their presence via her savings and investments. (Which may all go to Hell, but whatever.)

Anyhow, the point is this: I've witnessed the one-animal-disaster and the thirty-animal-success stories. But I also have first-hand knowledge of this truism: Every true hoarder will always deny her or his status as a member of "the club," which makes relieving them of their burden even more heartbreaking.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Never Too Many, by Dr. Khuly (using Catpaint app)

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