The DSPCA are calling on everyone to get knitting for the animals at the shelter this Christmas season. In a new campaign highlighted at the RDS Stitch and Knit Show, the DSPCA want knitters (and people who can just about hold two needles) to get knitting dog coats and cat toys for their rescue animals.
The organiser of the Pawsitive Knits campaign, Jenny Harrow, is an avid knitter who devised the project in order to combine her two loves, animals and knitting. “I got the idea from a similar project being run by the Battersea Dogs’ and Cats’ Home,” she tells me. Battersea is the largest and most famous animal shelter in London, and began their Knit One Purl One appeal in 2011, with great success. Lauren O’Farrell of Battersea says, “Most knitters have a bit of spare yarn that would be perfect for a bit of mouse-making for moggies.”
The Pawsitive Knits website has plenty of links to various patterns, including doggie coats and catnip mice. “The catnip mice only take about an hour to make,” Jenny says. There’s a range of levels catered for, from doggie coats for the more experienced knitters to little mice which anyone can make. “The knits are ideal for beginners,” Jenny smiles.“Because if you do drop a stitch or make a mistake, the cats really aren’t going to care.” Putting a bit of catnip into the toys makes all the difference, she tells me. “They go crazy for it.”
Catnip toys are really important for socialising the animals, Jenny says, and essential for the mental well-being of the cats. “The DSPCA will get a lot of feral kittens coming in in February, as cats can have up to 18 kittens in one season. People bring them in, but they’ve been fending for themselves, so they need to be socialised.”
Head of fundraising for the DSPCA, Suzanne McGovern, says that there are a lot of young people involved in the project, and that recently a program was made for RTE where the DSPCA went in to visit local schools. “We definitely encourage students to take part,” she says.
Dog coats are the big drive then for the more experienced knitter. “Around Christmas, a lot of dogs are abandoned, and are left wandering around public areas, starving,” Suzanne says. “We tend to laugh at dogs if we see them in coats,” Jenny smiles, “but if a dog is underweight and malnourished, that coat is essential to get through the winter months.”