Whether on the field or in the office, teams of all varieties often adopt different habits to keep them motivated. Never is that more important than during times of adversity, when these regular practices may be the only constant during an otherwise whirlwind of a week. Routine, kitten cuddles, exercise and the odd glass of post-work wine are some of the things helping the MEOW Foundation Intake Team as they navigate through these uncertain times.

When the COVID-19 crisis first hit Calgary, the day-to-day operations of MEOW weren’t largely affected. The cats continued to demand food, trays still needed to be scooped and resident cat Jer’s calls for attention and love remained as loud as ever. However, it was clear to all that the situation was escalating rapidly and so, the Intake Team put their heads together to determine how they would safely operate going forward

“At the beginning, we didn’t have many changes but we did need to plan for the weeks and months ahead,” says Full-time Intake Assistant Lara Chisa, explaining that the team had to find plans for every possible scenario. “If clinics shut down, what do we do? What do we do if a foster cat is sick?”

As a result of their planning, Team MEOW was ready to adapt to a new way of operating when, to safeguard the safety of everyone, we decided to limit entry to the Adoption Centre to essential staff only. Thankfully, the contingency plans worked out as intended, thanks largely to the cooperation of our foster homes and partner clinics.

However, the onset of the pandemic coincided with a significant time of year at MEOW Foundation: kitten season. This is unpredictable under normal circumstances so needless to say, nobody knew how this year’s season would pan out. Luckily, it started off a bit slower than usual, giving everyone time to adjust to the new normal. Kitten season is now in full swing, with litters arriving several times a week before they’re swiftly sent home to some happy, home-bound foster parents.

The regular routine of everyone on the Intake Team has certainly changed dramatically in recent weeks, most notably due to the absence of another team of heroic helpers: our Adoption Centre volunteers! Owing to the restrictions put in place, our volunteers were no longer able to come in for feeding, socializing, and cleaning shifts and so, the MEOW staff rose to the challenge.

Indeed, everyone on the Intake Team and the wider MEOW staff notes how this unusual time has given them an even greater appreciation for all of the volunteers that help us to keep MEOW running smoothly. Without a doubt, the cats are also pining for their return. Our volunteers play a vital role in socializing our cats and despite our best efforts, our feline friends have been feeling a little lonely without their old buddies.

With sweeping and scooping now in the hands of MEOW staff, regular tasks are sometimes a bit delayed. Coordinating with foster homes remotely can also prove challenging sometimes, says Lara, who adds that all of them have been extremely flexible and understanding of MEOW’s new methods.

Having some more members on board the Intake Team definitely makes a huge difference. Intake Assistant Chelsea Niekamp joined MEOW in January and she couldn’t have arrived at a better time. As she was still learning the tricks of the trade when the pandemic hit, she says that adopting the new protocols wasn’t a huge adjustment for her.

“It means I need to come in to feed in the evening, though I often come in a few hours earlier than scheduled because kittens are coming in,” says Chelsea, who tells us that kitten cuddles help her through the often hectic routine.

The assistance of our flex-time Intake Assistant Breanne Hogan was also greatly welcomed by all. When her studies were postponed due to school closures, she was happy to offer an extra hand at the Adoption Centre. She enjoys keeping busy and doesn’t need to be asked twice to lend a hand, be it through feeding and cleaning or indulging in her and Chelsea’s favourite past-time: cuddling kittens!

Through endless uncertainty and plenty of changes, our supporters have been standing at the side-lines. Over the last few months, the public has been extremely responsive to our requests for assistance, be it for cat posts, cat food or donations. This unending support has offered the Intake Team the help and motivation that no double espresso could ever match and for that, we are all eternally grateful.