Animal hoarding occurs when an individual owns a number of animals that exceeds his/her ability to provide satisfactory caregiving. This failure results in starvation, illness and death of the animals and impairs both the conditions of the household and the person’s quality of life. For a long time animal hoarding has been considered as a "lifestyle" but now it is deemed a form of animal maltreatment, yet only recently the scientific community has started to study it as a mental disorder, providing some explanatory models. Since Animal Hoarding occurs also in Italy but is still little known and studied, the aim of this review is to describe its main features and to introduce the most frequent hypothesis about its aetiology, with particular reference to Hoarding Disorder and to the role of trauma; moreover, strengths and weaknesses of current interventions will be analyzed, in order to promote an interdisciplinary approach to the problem. Special emphasis will be given to understand animal hoarding behaviour in the light of the normal human-pet bond, suggesting new research directions which consider aspects such as attachment and empathy toward animals.
Keywords: Animal Hoarding, Hoarding Disorder, human-animal bond, compulsive caregiving, animal maltreatment.