What Is Considered Animal Hoarding?

Hoarding behavior is typically associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but there is some debate as to whether hoarding is a symptom of a larger mental health problem, or perhaps a separate disorder to itself.

Animal hoarding, in particular, illustrates the differences between hoarding behavior and OCD. For example, animal hoarders rarely share the compulsive behaviors seen in OCD patients, such as repetitive washing or checking behaviors. And a hallmark of animal hoarding is an extreme impairment of insight that can border on delusion, something not seen to such a great extent in people with OCD.

According to HARC, the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, the formal criteria for animal hoarding is as follows:

Having More Than The Typical Number of Companion Animals

  • Failing to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in illness and death from starvation, the spread of infectious disease, and untreated injury or medical condition
  • Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling
  • Persistence, despite this failure, in accumulating and controlling animals

There are many similarities between animal hoarding and object hoarding, including the common side effects of the behavior: a cluttered, non-functional and sometimes dangerously unclean living space; social alienation; and denial/refusal to seek help. HARC notes that animal hoarding can be related to any number of cognitive problems, such as trouble understanding the situation or seeing consequences and alternatives, and can be the result of traumatic experiences that disrupt the formation of a normal attachment style.


While many people think of animal hoarding as a desire to save animals that spirals out of control, it is clear that deeper mental health issues are at work when people go to the extreme of hoarding animals.

Photo: Pexels

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