Although research on animal hoarding, both in urban and rural settings, is growing, a gap remains in the literature about community patterns of animal ownership. Our objective was to determine patterns of companion animal ownership in a rural setting and the association between number of animals in a household and indicators of animal health.
Retrospective review of veterinary medical records from 2009 to 2019 from a university-based community clinic in Mississippi.
Review of all owners who reported having animals from a household with 8 or more other animals on average, excluding animals from shelters, rescues, or veterinary practices. Across the study period, 28,446 unique encounters occurred among 8,331 unique animals and 6,440 unique owners. Indicators of care for canine and feline animals were taken from values indicated on the physical examination.
Animals were largely from single-animal households (46.9%) or households with 2 to 3 animals (35.9%). However, 2.1% of all animal cases reviewed lived in a household reported to have 8 or more animals, and 2.4% of canines and 4.3% of felines lived in a household with 8 or more animals. Increased animal ownership in the home correlated with worse health outcomes based on the health-care indicators investigated in canines and felines.
Veterinarians working in community settings are likely to encounter cases of animal hoarding and should consider collaborating with mental health practitioners if repeated incidences of negative health-care indicators occur for animals from the same household.