Fabienne Cezanne, Founder of an Animal Fostering Club at McGill

As George Eliot once said, “animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” Anyone who’s ever owned a pet can attest to this truth; studies have already proven that a furry companion can ease loneliness, reduce stress, promote social interaction, encourage exercise and playfulness, and, of course, love you unconditionally (as long as you love them back). But being a student doesn’t leave you with a lot of free time on your hands, and splitting your cash between groceries and cat litter may seem daunting, even downright impossible. Or is it? Her Campus caught up with Fabienne Cezanne, a German native and Management major at McGill, who also dedicates her free time to running the Facebook group McGill’s Love For Animals and volunteering at the Montreal SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). In my interview with her, she explains why she’s such a strong advocate for students fostering shelter animals in need of a loving, if temporary, home, and what her own experiences as a foster pet parent have been like.

Olivia for Her Campus McGill (HC McGill): Let’s get started with a little bit about you!

Fabienne Cezanne (FC): My full name is Fabienne Monique Cezanne, and I’m German with a French background. I was born in Germany, where I lived in Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg before moving to Monaco at the age of thirteen. I’m now nineteen, in U2 at McGill and studying Management with a major in International Management, and a minor in Environment with a concentration in International Business. In the future, I’d like to work in sustainability, preferably sustainable real estate. But in my first year after university, I’d like to work at the SPCA full-time to help them out better than I can now. I created the “McGill’s Love For Animals” group to make people more aware of fostering possibilities at the SPCA Montreal. I’m a foster department volunteer at the SPCA and a cat care-taker at the SPCA Annexe.

HC McGill: Now that we know a little bit more about you, I should ask - are you more of a cat person, a dog person, or some other kind of pet lover entirely?

FC: I’m more of a cat and a horse person. Those are the animals that have played the biggest roles in my life. I also love guinea pigs, but they are too small of a pet for me right now, though they’re great for small kids! I do like dogs, but I could never see myself having one.

HC McGill: How did you get involved with the SPCA in the first place? Why did this kind of volunteer work interest you?

FC: Coming from a cat-loving family, I grew up with cats. I’ve always loved all kinds of animals, so I never imagined the kinds of cruelty they could encounter in their lives. Don’t get me wrong - I still eat meat, because there are animals that are bred purely for that purpose and that’s okay. But pets are different, and they trust humans, yet some still don’t get the love they deserve. Those are the ones I feel responsible for.

In Monaco, I remember that everyone had dogs even though the apartments were tiny and owners were usually too lazy to take them out. Many of them just had doggy pads lying around for them to pee on... it was gross! There also weren’t any animal shelters around, so most animals came from breeders. I myself adopted a cat, named Linus, when I lived in Germany, but he died in a tragic accident in Monaco - I guess it’s partly because of him that I chose to pursue volunteering and help other animals in need.  When I came to Montreal, I heard about all the animals that are abandoned every year because a lot of landlords don’t allow you to keep pets, and students have no choice but to give up their animals to shelters. Even worse, many cats and dogs land on the street. I also learned that Quebec laws against animal cruelty are vague to the point of barely existing, which certainly doesn’t help the cause of these animals in need. Hearing about all of this made me want to take action; I went to the SPCA website to find out more about the organization and stumbled onto their volunteering program. I applied, went through an information session, and then was welcomed to my new volunteering position in the fostering department! The people I work with are super-friendly, but most importantly, we all share the same goal: to get animals off the streets and into loving arms. 

HC McGill: So, why do you think fostering important? 

FC: Fostering saves lives. It allows sick animals to get out of the shelter and into a calm, loving environment, where it’s easier for them to recover and where they can’t get other animals sick as well. It’s beneficial for animals born too small or premature, since they might not get the attention and care they need in a crowded shelter, as opposed to a one-on-one environment like a foster home. There are also some animals that just need a break from living in a cage. Most importantly, the benefits that living in a foster home can give to an animal actually increase the animal’s chances of getting adopted afterwards, which is the ultimate goal. Often there are cats that need socialization because they’ve never had human interaction before, and without a foster to teach them how to trust people, these animals might never get adopted and end up getting euthanized. I am currently fostering three kittens that were feral, and it is the greatest pleasure in the world when suddenly, after a week of ignoring you, a kitten comes up to snuggle! 

HC McGill: You’re very passionate about your own involvement in helping animals, but what inspired the idea to start a group promoting foster animals to McGill students?

FC: Many of my friends, as well as other students I’ve talked to, didn’t even know that the SPCA existed in Montreal! They had no idea that programs such as fostering are available to them. That’s why I wanted to find a way to reach as many students as possible at McGill. It gives them the opportunity to have a wonderful experience, while also helping foster animals to leave the shelter as soon as possible. 

HC McGill: Some would say that students already have too much on their plates during the school year, so getting a dog or a cat would be unwise for those with busy schedules or tight budgets. How is fostering a pet a kind of solution to this problem?

FC: I am strictly against students adopting animals during their study years if they don’t come from Montreal or if their parents don’t live within a two-hour driving range. Otherwise, who is going to take care of their poor pets once the holiday season comes? Or after university ends, if they want to go on a trip to Europe or move somewhere outside of the city for a job, will they have to funds to take their pets? I see too many posts on Free and For Sale about people trying to find a pet sitter, or selling their pets just because they are moving away, don’t have sufficient time to take care of them or have discovered how expensive being a pet owner is. If you get a pet, these are all important things you have to consider before you take responsibility for another living being. That’s why I believe that fostering is the perfect solution for students! If you grew up with a pet and miss them now during your study period, fostering can provide you with that same kind of companionship. If you want to test out what it means to be a pet owner before actually committing in the future, fostering is a good form of practice. Or if you already have an animal at home and want to see how it deals with having another furry roommate, fostering can be the perfect method.

Fostering opens all these doors for both you and the pet, and it’s only a one-month responsibility. After that, you can decide if you want to keep the animal until a suitable adopter is found or if you want to bring it back to the shelter. It won’t break your bank account either - any medicines that the animal needs will be provided by the SPCA, along with a litter box (for cats) and a first week’s food supply. Overall, you won’t be spending more than $20 to $40 dollars, depending on how many animals you’re taking care of. As far as time commitment goes, that’s really up to you, but I always say anything is better than a cage. Shelters are busy and packed with animals, so interaction is limited and pets are often neglected in regards to individual attention. I understand the hesitation a student might have at the prospect of balancing studies with yet another responsibility, but for me, it’s all about time management - feeding, cleaning and some cuddles now and then can be easily balanced with your school work load. I’ve never seen fostering as a problem, but rather a solution for all my school stresses.

HC McGill: What have you discovered from your own experiences fostering animals? Are there any furry friends that have made a lasting impression on you?

FC: I have learned so much about myself and the people that surround me, just through fostering. Animals reflect your behaviour, feelings and attitudes. If you aren’t calm, your foster pet won’t be either. My first socialization case was a kitten called Gina and she was absolutely terrified of humans. She wouldn’t even fight me off, just go stiff in my arms, with her little heart pounding. All my friends called her Mrs. Hissy because that’s exactly what she’d do at first sight of anyone. I put her alone in a room for a few days so that she could get accustomed to being outside her cage. After countless of hours spent sitting with her in that room, reading to her and feeding her while she hid in the corner and hissed, she one day made the move to sniff my hand and I got the chance to scratch her under her chin. Suddenly, she melted in my hands and just curled around me, asking for petting and chin-scratches. From then on, it was the same thing everyday: hisses and then cuddles. Baby steps. She showed me that it was difficult for her to trust me, and that she needed time to learn how to do that, but I noticed that the more calm I was around her, the more responsive and open she was to me. I now have three ferals and they all have different characters. It just means that every day is a new learning experience!

To learn more about the possibility of fostering your very own animal friend, check out McGill's Love For Animals on Facebook. To see more of Fabienne's fostering adventures, you can also follow her on Instagram, where she encourages other students to send in pictures of the animals they're taking care of. 


Images provided by interviewee.