Stray cats have become a growing epidemic in recent years, and the East County community is no exception.

That's why the Multnomah County Animal Hospital, as part of the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland, has been working for two years to help spay and neuter cats and get them off the streets and out of shelters.

On July 14, Gresham resident Delina Pilcher's Calico kitten, Callie, was the 10,000th cat to be spayed or neutered at Multnomah County Animal Services under the 'Spay and Save' program, run through Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland.

The program is a group effort from a number of different groups and organizations, both public and private, including, among others, the Oregon Humane Society, the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and Multnomah County Animal Services.

The program's goal is to reduce the number of stray cats coming into shelters and living on the streets, but it also has the specific focus on low-income pet owners.

'Spay and Save is aimed at certain demographic that we think wants to get their animal spayed or neutered, but maybe can't afford it,' said Ann Potter, volunteer coordinator for Multnomah County Animal Services.

People who receive any kind of government assistance, like food stamps or unemployment, can spay or neuter their cat for only $10. Low-income families that do not receive assistance can also qualify for a less expensive spay/neuter procedure.

'It's just a super good program,' Pilcher said. 'It helps people who can't afford to get their cats fixed.'

But this program only scratches the surface of the cat overpopulation problem. Multnomah County Animal Services alone, Potter said, takes in 5,000 cats a year. She added that the program originally estimated that it needed to spay or neuter 10,000 a year to make a dent in the population.

For those who still need to spay or neuter their cats, the program is offering the chance to do it for free at its special 'Spaycation' event through Friday, July 22, at its many shelters throughout the Portland area. To schedule an appointment, call 1-800-345-SPAY.

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