The 2019 Delphi Report
identified cat hoarding as a priority animal welfare issue. Hoarded animals frequently live in poor environments with evidence of inbreeding, poor socialisation, and high rates of infectious disease (Polak KC et al, 2014). Owners may struggle to adequately care for large colonies, and malnourishment and lack of veterinary care are often noted (Joffe M et al; 2014). These situations can become so serious in terms of both animal and human welfare, that the RSPCA may confiscate and prosecute. This approach is very costly in terms of finances, resources and time, and the risk of recidivism is high. There is concern that it does not lead to improved animal welfare in most cases, and that an alternative strategy may be of benefit.
In 2018, Hill et al documented a trial for a novel intervention with 10 households of hoarders, identified via complaints to the RSPCA inspectorate. This study will be a 3-year follow-up of these 10 households, plus 69 further households which were later recruited, to determine the long-term impact of this intervention approach.
This follow-up study will help determine if overall colony welfare has changed since the initial study and therefore, the effectiveness and lasting benefit of this intervention approach in supporting multi-animal households.
Findings of this study will inform future interventions and positively impact on animal and owner welfare. By reducing the burden that comes with recidivism in cat hoarding on the RSPCA and other rescue organisations, valuable saved resources can be redirected to additional welfare improvements.
Katherine’s passion for animal welfare, especially cat welfare, fuelled her pursuit of this project. With ambitions to become a charity vet, she has previously volunteered for a range of organisations such as The Cinnamon Trust and Cats Protection and is a member of the BSAVA and Association of Charity Vets. This project will enable Katherine to gain insight into an issue that significantly impacts upon animal welfare and will lead to further research and collaboration.