"There's this denial that there are any problems present," he explains, "the inability to meet even minimal standards of care, and the obsessive attempts to accumulate even more animals in the face of those deteriorating conditions . . . and whether or not they have any awareness about what's going on. And in a lot of these cases, they don't."

Experts say the condition can be triggered by a traumatic event, a need for control, or developmental factors such as childhood abuse or abandonment.

"It's not one size fits all," explains Patronek. "You've got people who are doing this that probably have a range of potentially diagnosable disorders or mental-health issues, and this is how those issues are expressed."

Whether or not Bozzio qualifies as a hoarder will be revealed at a sentencing hearing on May 21, when she will no doubt again send whispers through the Ossipee courthouse with her colorful hairstyle and faded celebrity.

Until then, her distraught mother maintains that her daughter only wanted the best for the now-deceased Ossipee cats.

"The whole thing is just one spattered mess, and Dale is getting the worst end of it, trying to do the best she could," says Antonelli, her voice trailing. "And she couldn't do what she was trying to do."

Though she lives in the woods of rural Ossipee, New Hampshire, Phoenix freelancer Ashley Rigazio does not feed feral felines. She can be reached at amrigazio@gmail.com.

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Related: Bozzio's a somewhat missing person on the west coast, Missing Persons singer Dale Bozzio jailed, Slideshow: Crazy cat house uncovered, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Animal Rescue League of Boston, Dale Bozzio, Dale Bozzio,  More more >
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