Five Years at MEOW’s Adoption Centre

MEOW Foundation is celebrating five years at our Adoption Centre this month! We’re so grateful for this space that has allowed us to house thousands of homeless Calgary cats while they wait for their forever home.

MEOW was founded all the way back in the year 2000 with the mandate of helping Calgary’s stray and abandoned cats. For our first 17 years, we operated out of a rented bungalow in the northwest Calgary community of Highland Park. While we were (and still are!) so grateful to have this space for the many cats that needed us, the house obviously had some limitations – plus it wasn’t zoned to be an animal rescue. Luckily we had great relationships with our neighbours and the house worked for us for many years.


Volunteers hard at work
Cats enjoying the view at the original MEOW house

However, we always knew that eventually we would need something bigger. In fact, we started planning and budgeting to buy our own building all the way back in 2010! The house simply didn’t have the space we needed to store all our kennels, traps and other necessary equipment. We made do thanks to generous volunteers who donated space in their garage, but we knew we needed a more permanent solution.

Our dream was a building that could have a proper intake area, offices for staff, more space for our cats, storage space for equipment and advanced HVAC to minimize the potential spread of illness among cats. With these criteria in mind, we purchased what is now the Adoption Centre in northeast Calgary in 2014. We were elated to have secured a space of our own, but it wasn’t as simple as buying and just moving in!

Debbie Nelson, our Operations Manager, says there were “challenges related to finding a building in an industrial area and then the permitting required from the city to be designated as a kennel.” It was also a challenge also to find a building with natural light – a must-have for our cats – and that did not require a full interior demolition. Lastly, we of course needed significant funds for a fulsome renovation, including replacing the HVAC system and getting various building elements up to code. So, MEOW set out to raise half a million dollars – no small feat at the best of times, but even more daunting given that Calgary was in the midst of an economic downturn. But through large-scale campaigns, small garage sales and everything in between, we got the funds we needed.

With our permits in place and funds in hand thanks to our generous donors, we could finally get to work. MEOW engaged with several architect firms who had experience in building and designing animal facilities, including shelters. We ended up working with BCW Architects – our primary contact there was a cat lover, which was a great fit! Construction started in October 2016.

Creating what would become our Isolation Room
Our reception area and Cream adoption room under construction
As with any project, we had the usual challenges of staying on time and on budget, but as always, we used our creativity and community connections to stay as frugal as possible. Office furniture, some flooring and other items were donated by the public or by Calgary businesses. After months of work, MEOW finally moved into 35 Skyline Crescent in July 2017!  Moving day was exciting but surreal, until “I stood at the back door of the bay and saw all these little faces coming in,” Debbie says. “Then it became really real.”
Waiting to welcome the cats to the new building
Volunteers rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done, as always!
Saying farewell to the old house
MEOW had a grand opening in September, attended by our MLA at the time, our volunteers and so many other amazing people who had supported us since our humble beginnings 17 years prior. And we can’t forget the celebratory litter box cake – gotta love Tootsie Rolls!
Our Board Chair Stephanie cutting the tape
Who doesn’t celebrate with a litter box cake? #cathumour
Since the Adoption Centre opened up, we have seen thousands of cats go from homeless to forever loved in adoptive homes. MEOW Foundation has been around for 22 years, but we truly feel like we’re just getting started in terms of our potential impact. Our thrift shop brings in revenue for the organization while reducing waste and helping the local economy and our recent purchase of Regal Cat Café will help fund our programs while increasing awareness for rescued cats. We also continue to plan for our own veterinary practice to help even more cats in need and get our cats into their forever homes more quickly.

We can’t express our gratitude enough to everyone who has helped us to where we are today! We’re grateful to be able to continue and expand our life-saving work of Making Each One Wanted.