According to The Humane Society, 6-8 million animals end up in shelters each year, and half will likely never be adopted. That’s a staggering number and heartbreaking reality. Aside from adopting a pet or donating money, many animal lovers like myself are left wondering how we can make a difference in the lives of homeless animals.
One woman from Bellevue, Washington, is demonstrating how in one very sweet way. Emma Eng, 93, is a resident at The Bellettini retirement community and a prolific knitter. Eng began knitting blankets for cats as part of The Bellettini’s quarterly Animal Lovers Challenge, where they collect and donate knit blankets, towels, pet food, and toys for The Seattle Humane Society, explains Pam McFadden, sales and marketing manager at The Bellettini.
But Eng continued knitting custom blankets even after the challenge ended. As a cat lover whose own rescue cat passed away a few years ago, she felt compelled to help more cats like hers feel comfortable and warm while they await their forever homes, says Jenna Pringle, marketing communications manager for The Seattle Humane Society, where Eng donates blankets.
Pringle tells Babble that blankets for animals are a much-needed item at The Humane Society, especially since they provide their animals’ foster parents with all necessary supplies, including blankets. Pringle says that knitted blankets provide comfort and security to cats, which helps them feel more comfortable in new environments with new people, ultimately helping them get adopted.
“Some of the shy kitties will nestle in the blankets or hide under them until they feel more confident,” she says. “The blankets also create a homey ambiance that makes adopters and visitors feel good about visiting our shelter and helps to transform the perception that animal shelters are sad, while in fact Seattle Humane is very happy!”
Pringle shares that the shelter currently has “30 cats available for adoption and nearly 100 more who are still in holding or foster care awaiting spay/neuter, receiving specialized medical care or behavior help, and several underage kittens who need more time to grow.”
Eng herself spoke to Babble about the special blankets she makes, explaining that each one is different and made with love. She now uses yarn donated by Pacific Fabrics and enjoys working with all of the fun colors. She estimates that she’s made about 40 blankets this year.
“It engages me,” Eng says, “and it’s kind of fun.” The dedicated senior shares that she lost her husband in 1999 and moved into The Bellettini about five years ago when she no longer felt able to take care of her home on her own. While knitting is something she’s always enjoyed, Eng finds the activity to be such an important outlet now. “It keeps my fingers nimble and my brain engaged,” she says. “It keeps me involved.”
Eng says that she misses having a cat, but she’s hesitant to adopt another one. “I’m afraid the animal would outlive me,” she says with a laugh. For now, Eng is focusing on her knitting projects, providing TLC to animals in need, and keeping her mind sharp.
Eng admits to be being surprised that her story has been so widely shared. Were it not for her granddaughters, she wouldn’t even know the extent to which it’s sweeping the web. “I don’t really use the computer,” she says with a chuckle.
Eng couldn’t be nicer or more humble, and the staff at The Seattle Humane Society couldn’t be more grateful for her generosity. Pringle says, “We rely on the kind support from people like Emma who donate and volunteer their time for the animals.”