Animal Hoarding or Rescue? - Cat Info Detective

Animal Hoarding or Rescue?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Welcome feline fanciers! Skye Blake here, reporting in about an important topic you should understand… animal hoarding.

It’s a problem in the world of animal shelters, rescues and sanctuaries.

How do you know if a rescue is legitimate or a hoarding situation?

paw prints coming in from a distance

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian or behaviorist) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

All sources are given at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

What Is Animal Hoarding?

3 cats sitting on a step - stray, feral, rescue, hoarding, shelters

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “People with hoarding disorder have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions due to a perceived need to save the items.”

This is true with animals as well as other possessions. There can be a thin line between rescuing animals and hoarding them.

various pets, animals, dog, cat, bird, lizard, guinea pig, rabbit, mouse - vet, rescue, hoarding, shelters

You may have heard of individual hoarders living in filthy, often unbelievable conditions, not realizing they’re causing pain and suffering to themselves and their animals.

This can also be the case with people running a rescue group, shelter or sanctuary.

A Normal Shelter

ginger, orange tabby cat -pregnant, TNR, rescue, hoarding, shelters, vet

It’s common for animal shelters and rescues to barely make ends meet.

They depend on either a few employees or volunteers for daily animal care and fundraising, begging for transport and other help on social media.

Those in charge are primarily concerned about taking good care of each animal and can make the difficult decision to refuse new animals until they can safely make more room.

Serval cat in cage-rescue, shelter, hoarding

Those in charge are aware of the difficulties and are open to changing how they operate, accepting help to improve their ability to care for the animals.

This includes better access to vet care, understanding the need for euthanasia in certain cases, and setting up behavior and enrichment programs.

Most importantly, they have or are willing to set up adoption procedures and fees that protect the animals but don’t discourage adoption.

It can be a difficult balance.

cat at adoption fair-rescue, shelter

The exception to adoptions is sanctuaries.

Since they’re set up to give animals a home for the rest of their lives, they don’t normally promote adoptions.

In this case, proper care of the animals and the ability to say “no” when they’re at capacity is crucial for a well-run operation.

tabby kitten & mom

At a public shelter where they are required by law to take every animal that comes in, they have procedures and make the hard decisions about euthanasia to make more room.

They also work with other shelters, sanctuaries and rescue groups to save as many animals as possible.

Check out a discussion of public vs. private shelters at “Kill vs No-Kill Shelters – Which is Better?

Hoarding Situations

cat scared, afraid, angry

It might not be easy to spot a hoarding situation because some hoarders are charming and fun.

They attract people who work with them, becoming enablers, even being hoarders themselves.

The difference between a struggling shelter and a hoarding situation is the attitude of the people in charge.

White with black cat wearing pink collar

Hoarders, just like other rescues, can be struggling to make ends meet, asking for money and help on social media, and taking in too many animals.

But hoarders are very possessive and unable to see or accept that they’re hurting and even killing the animals they think they’re helping.

Because they’re using the animals to fill a need within themselves, they’re blind to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and unchecked breeding.

cat rubbing head on dog's head - shelters, rescue, hoarding

At a normal shelter, those in charge are making every effort to give the animals good care and get sensible adoptions done as quickly as possible.

Hoarders, however, don’t like giving up any animals and can be extremely hostile, even if those animals would go to good homes and ease the burden on the hoarders themselves.

Often the authorities have to get involved.

cat & dog face to face

Here’s an example of the problem and the difficulty dealing with hoarding in a shelter situation. “Cat charity CEO quits over colleague keeping 18 cats in house

In this case, the chair of trustees is allegedly not abiding by the rules the shelter and having too many cats in sub-standard living conditions.

Mama cat & 3 kittens sitting on driveway - shelters, rescue, hoarding

What to Do If You Suspect Hoarding

If you have concerns about the possibility of animal hoarding in a particular organization, use our checklist to evaluate it…

If you believe the animals are in danger, being neglected or otherwise suffering, contact your local animal control officer.

Check “animal control” at the website for your local government. If there’s no animal control officer in your area, call the police department.

police, animal control, shelters

Use 911 or other emergency numbers only if the animals are in imminent danger (injured, freezing cold with no shelter, in the sun with no water or shelter, etc.) and there’s no satisfactory attempts being made to get them help.

If you have concerns about a hoarding situation but see that the animals are safe for the moment, call the main police number.

Discover more at “Cat Rescue & Adoption“.


Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

So, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

13 Most Inspiring Animal Welfare Organizations“, Dog Product Picker, December 13, 2021

30 Great Animal Organizations Worthy of Your Donations 2020” – Best Choice Reviews – U.S. IRS 501(c)(3) Non-profit List


Adopting a Pet From a Rescue (And Why the Rules Sometimes Seem Wacky)” – Petful

Animal Shelter and Rescue Program“,

Animal Shelters & Rescues for Pet Adoption“, Petfinder

Animal Shelters & Rescues Work Together“, Best Friends Animal Society

Animal Welfare Act Quick Reference Guides“, Animal Welfare Information Center, NAL, USDA


Behavioral Assessment in Animal Shelters” by Sheila Segurson D’Arpino, DVM, DACVB (, 2007

Cat charity CEO quits over colleague keeping 18 cats in house“, Animal Welfare, The Guardian

Cat Rescue Groups | Life Saving Organizations and Resources” (

Charity Navigator – Advanced Search

Choosing a Reputable Rescue Group” – RedRover

Donate to a rescue animal’s wishlist | CUDDLY“,

“Facility Design, Shelter Animal Housing and Shelter Population Management“, Library – University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program (


Game Changer Celebrates Facility’s 50,000th Spay-Neuter“, Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, Mercola, January 21, 2021

Game Changer Wants to End Pet Homelessness and Suffering (“, Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, February 25, 2021

How to Start a Rescue or Other Animal Nonprofit” (

The Importance of Animal Shelters“, Richell USA, November 25, 2019

Laws Regulating Rescue and Foster Care Programs for Companion Animals“, Animal Legal & Historical Center (

NYC Pet Adoption Guide: Animal Shelters For Dogs And Cats” – CBS New York (

Original Purpose of Animal ‘Control’ Shelters, that you might not know” by Donna,

Position Statement on Responsibilities of Animal Shelters“, ASPCA


“Rescue Bank” – (

Rescue Best Practice Guide” (

Rescue or Rotten?” – Catwatch Newsletter

Shelter Resources“, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Shelter/Rescue Transport Programs” – Animal Shelter, Inc. of Sterling (

Shelters and rescues FAQ“, The Humane Society of the United States

Starting A Pet-Adoption Organization“, Petfinder

Understanding Your Local Government & Animal Control Information for Cats“, (

Updated April 5, 2024

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