Cat Hoarding


It starts slowly and so innocently. One cat to keep you company. Another cat to keep the first cat company – seems like a good idea. Someone asks you to take in the cat they are giving away, and now there is another stray at your door. Word gets around that you will take in any unwanted or stray cat. Before you know it, you have five cats. Soon you have eight cats. Now it’s 12. Oops, more like 16. Soon you have 24 cats, then 34, then 40.

Are you a cat hoarder?

How many cats are too many?  When are you a “hoader”?

When it comes to “how many cats are too many” – the answer is more cats than your household can adequately care for.  The number is less important; you might be classified a cat hoarder with 10 cats, or you might have 16 in your household but you are able to take good care of all of them. That being said, as a rule of thumb, most people cannot provide proper care for more than four or five cats – at the very most.

You have to have the time, money and physical space to properly care for an animal. You have to be able to love them, play with them, feed them, house them, and pay their veterinary bills.  If you can do that for 20 cats, you may not be hoarding – but be prepared to retro-fit your house to provide comfortable play space, litter boxes and other necessities for your cats. If you cannot provide a healthy environment for five cats, but you still insist on keeping them and continue to take in any cat someone offers to you, you are likely a hoarder.

Why do people hoard cats?

True cat hoarders often feel like they are an abandoned or homeless cat’s only option – these cats need them. Cat hoarders cannot turn down any cat, regardless of their ability to care for them. Often, with cat hoarders you will see houses full of undernourished, dirty and matted cats. There may be cat waste around the house because the hoarder has an inadequate number of litter boxes, and they are not capable of keeping the ones they do have clean. Usually the cats are not spayed or neutered, so more litters of kittens are born, and the cat population in the household continues to grow.

So what makes a cat hoarder? Why do they do it? Most often a hoarder is one person who is lonely and sees the cats as their job or responsibility in life. They are unable to see that the cats in their care are not really being cared for well, and are not living a high quality of life. Hoarding seems to be an obsession and a compulsion for the hoarders.

Animals are great companions, and they never critique nor criticize. They love us no matter what, and this seems to be a major motivation for the hoarder. However, those people without the obsessive-compulsive behavior patterns would typically stop at 2 to 3 cats instead of 40 – and ensure that their cat’s needs are met. The hoarder cannot stop taking in more cats, until the situation is unhealthy for both the human hoarder and the cats. Unfortunately, the cats in a hoarder’s care are in danger, and must be taken away.  Any type of hoarding is considered an anxiety disorder, and needs to be treated properly with professional help.


Photo:  Courtesy of hifi_ninja via Flickr (CC by 2.0)


Nicky LaMarco has been a freelance writer since 2001. Nicky is an experienced ghostwriter and copywriter. She also writes for a variety of magazines. Nicky lives in Maine with her husband, two daughters, and two cats. Learn more about her at