Cat Hoarding And Infectious Diseases
Any type of animal hoarding is heartbreaking. It’s particularly sad when an individual begins caring for animals with the best of intentions but simply loses control of their situation. Hoarding often involves dozens or hundreds of animals – both dead and alive – living in horrifying conditions, but the prevalence of the problem isn’t really known because hoarders tend to isolate themselves.
What we do know is that hoarding-like conditions can sometimes manifest in shelters and sanctuaries. Because hoarding is often characterized by the horrible conditions in which the animals are living, those that are rescued from these environments regularly suffer from a variety of health conditions, including respiratory infections, skin diseases, and more. These medical conditions not only cause the animal to suffer but can also impede the shelter intake process and make them less appealing to potential adopters.
This review looked at large-scale cruelty investigations related to hoarding and attempted “to characterize the infectious diseases of cats with respiratory and gastrointestinal signs and to determine the prevalence of retroviral infections.” To do this, researchers looked at four case studies that involved removing more than 2,000 cats from sanctuaries whose environments were similar to those found in hoarding situations. In each of these cases, veterinarians were directly involved in intake exams and screenings.
Interestingly, most of the cats (98%) were adults (more than six months of age). Perhaps unsurprisingly, they all suffered from a range of diseases. For example, 27% suffered from upper respiratory infections, 8% from feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and another 8% from feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Surprisingly, heartworm infections were almost non-existent, but a variety of skin diseases were prevalent.
While the results will not be surprising to animal advocates who are familiar with how horrifying hoarding can be, the researchers hope that their methodical approach will inspire further research that helps to prioritize factors in “incident response planning” to “continuously improve outcomes for rescued cats.”