Animal hoarding, sometimes referred to as "collecting", continues to struggle with public misconceptions. Members of the community and even law enforcement often view hoarders to be "someone who meant well but the situation got out of hand," conjuring images of the sweet cat lady down the street.
While their intentions may indeed have been good, the reality of hoarding is far from sweet, and is often quite horrific. Hoarders often have hundreds of animals in their home, living in filth and without veterinary care. It is not uncommon to discover several hundred animals in various states of neglect at one location. It is also very common to find vast collections of other junk and garbage on the premises, as well as many layers of feces throughout the home.

Hoarders may feel that they "love" animals, but they can be blind to the fact that they are not caring for them responsibly even in the face of starvation and death. Hoarders are usually unable to bear the thought of euthanasia, but vast numbers of animals are "saved" only to languish in a squalid, crowded environment where they suffer from malnourishment, illness, inactivity, poor ventilation, and lack of human companionship. Dogs and cats have been found kept in cages, crates, hutches, and even kitchen cabinets, some even being allowed to breed. Hoarders often cannot afford to pay for all the spaying and neutering (not to mention the routine veterinary care) needed for so many animals, so their collection grows until the filth, stench, and noise attract the attention of neighbors or health, sanitation, or humane officials. In some situations, the homes of animal hoarders are so run-down and filthy that the local Department of Health actually orders their homes razed to the ground.

Some studies indicate that a recurring theme in animal hoarders may be situations of neglect or loss in their childhood. To oversimplify, they attempt to fill their lives with the consistent love they feel they were (or are) lacking. Many hoarders believe they are on a mission to save animals - for this reason, we see hoarding more prevalent in animal rescuers than any other type of animal cruelty. Recidivism in animal hoarders is nearly 100%.
While the "typical" animal hoarder is very often elderly, and quite often female, recent statistics indicate that younger individuals and males are not immune. In some areas, the local social services and health departments are attempting to work with animal hoarders to help them.