Early Stage Animal Hoarders: Are These Owners of Large Numbers of Adequately Cared for Cats?

Animal hoarding is a spectrum-based condition in which hoarders are often reported to have had normal and appropriate pet-keeping habits in childhood and early adulthood. Historically, research has focused largely on well-established clinical animal hoarders with little work targeted towards the onset and development of animal hoarding. This study investigated whether a Brazilian population of owners of what might typically be considered an excessive number (20 or more) of cats were more likely to share the commonly reported psychological and demographic profile of animal hoarders than owners of 1-2 cats drawn from the same population. Psychological traits measured were attachment to pets (Lexington Pet Attachment Scale, LAPS), anxiety and depression (Hospitalized Anxiety and Depression Scale, HADS), and hoarding behavior (Saving Inventory-Revised, SI-R). Owners of 20 or more cats were significantly older, scored significantly higher pet attachment scores, and displayed significant positive relationships between hoarding behavior and anxiety. Such a profile demonstrates greater similarities to clinical animal hoarders than to typical cat owners on these particular measures, although additional disparities with clinical animal hoarders exist in the areas of functioning, veterinary care and home organization. Taking this information together, the studied population may represent the understudied group of early stage animal hoarders. However, external factors such as culture and societal animal control policies should not be overlooked as alternative explanations for pet keeping at levels that might be considered excessive.

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