Collection of creatures

With World Animal Day and World Mental Health Day both falling in October, there’s no better time to take a close look at the serious issue of animal hoarding.
By Sheryl Lau
Published on Thursday, 12 October 2017

 

This year alone, there have already been seven cat hoarding cases in Singapore—the most prominent being that of 94 cats living in a three-room Sengkang flat.  

For most paw-rents, the thought of living in squalor and being surrounded by sick animals, urine and faeces is unimaginable. However, animal hoarders strongly believe that they are helping these animals despite being unable to provide even minimal standards of care for their furry wards. 

Although research on animal hoarding is lacking, many hoarders have been found to have dysfunctional, unstable childhoods during which animals were the only constant. They form deep attachments to their pets and experience extreme grief when they lose their furkids. Yet, animal hoarders are unable to comprehend that they are in fact “killing” their pets through their inability to meet the animals’ basic needs.

“They lack ‘insight’ into their behaviour and are convinced that their hoarding-related beliefs or behaviours are not problematic despite being shown or shared with contrary evidence or explanations,” explains Dr Alvin Liew, a psychiatrist from the Adult & Child Psychological Wellness Clinic.

Their behaviour could be the result of psychiatric conditions such as hoarding disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, neurocognitive disorder, and even psychosis. Due to their mental illness, animal hoarders find it difficult to make simple decisions such as discarding their possessions, which contributes to the clutter.

“They often know that they need help but when it’s time to part with their things or cats, they will find an excuse,” shares Cat Welfare Society’s executive director, Laura Ann Meranda.

Hoarding behaviour is often associated with emotions like guilt, shame and embarrassment. Therefore, such individuals do not willingly seek out treatment and may become defiant when loved ones try to help.

To read more about animal hoarding, flip to Paw Prints (pg 20) of our Oct/Nov 2017 issue!