If you’ve been thinking about saving a life by adopting a companion animal, there’s no time like the present.

Those involved with animal welfare organizations often refer to this time of year as “kitten season” — the months during which we are inundated with homeless cats and kittens. These summer months strain our resources and challenge us as we work to find loving homes for these pets and, in the meantime, give them the care each one deserves.

Kennebec Valley Humane Society’s decision to waive adoption fees for cats 7 months and older through Sept. 1 has helped us place hundreds of the cats in our care with families so far this summer. Research shows that these families are just as attached and committed to their new pets as other adopters.

With the help of adopters and supporters, the initiative has helped to alleviate overcrowding at the shelter, which is known to cause stress and illness among the animals we care for. Even so, we continue to take in homeless cats and kittens daily.

This busy time of year highlights the urgency of our work to educate the public about the critical importance of spaying and neutering our pets. Each year, an estimated 6 million-8 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters in our country.

Central Maine is no different. At Kennebec Valley Humane Society alone, we are charged with the care of several thousand homeless pets annually.

There are circumstances beyond our control that ensure our community will always need caring individuals who are passionate about placing homeless animals in forever homes.

But unwanted litters of kittens aren’t one of them. People save lives when they spay or neuter their cats. Every time a person’s cat has kittens, each home found for each kitten potentially takes a home away from a kitten or cat in the shelter that is waiting for its family to come. Each of your cat’s kittens has the potential to compound the heartbreaking problem of pet overpopulation.

Too often, we hear well-meaning people say they just want their beautiful cat to have one litter. The sad truth is that one litter puts the lives of equally wonderful companion animals in jeopardy.

It’s a hard reality that most animal lovers would rather not face but that shelter workers and volunteers deal with every day.

Just a few months ago, Kennebec Valley Humane Society held a low-cost spay/neuter event, “fixing” a total of 77 cats from the communities we serve thanks to support from the Belvedere Animal Welfare Fund and our partners at Winthrop Veterinary Hospital and At Home Veterinary Care.

If each of those 77 cats had produced a litter of three, the result could have been nearly a thousand kittens in just one year. While the event was a great success, however, many more companion animals in our communities have not been spayed or neutered.

The good news is that we can all be part of the solution. In fact, the community’s support and action is critical to these efforts.

Anyone who has a family pet can prevent its offspring from ending up homeless by “fixing” your pet as soon as it reaches the appropriate age.

No one should let cost be a barrier to having a pet spayed or neutered. If the procedure presents a financial hardship, there are resources to help. Visit www.pethavenlane.org or contact your local humane society to learn more.

People who don’t have a pet, or whose pet already is “fixed,” can help homeless animals by offering their support to the Kennebec Valley Humane Society (or their local shelter).

There are many ways to help us give animals in need a second chance. People save a life when they adopt a homeless pet. When they foster, donate or volunteer, they play a crucial role in saving many lives.

Amy Sylvester is president of the board of directors of the Kennebec Valley Humane Society, a nonprofit organization that serves communities in central Maine. Its mission is to care for, protect and place animals for adoption in lifelong homes while working to end cruelty to animals and pet overpopulation. Visit the website at www.pethavenlane.org.

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