Ukrainian Cat Refugees Evacuated With Human Families

With 7.5 million pet cats in Ukraine, the lucky ones get to leave war-torn cities with their human families. Cat refugees join with dogs and other pets as, fueled by fear, the mass exodus from cities takes place in the midst of war.

Many cats hid when it was time to leave and therefore could not go on the journey. Many others were simply abandoned, as people, fearing for their lives, left behind everything they owned.

Why would one burden oneself with a cat or dog? There is undoubtedly a strong bond of love between them. Many people do believe their animal to be part of their family and would not think of leaving the pet behind.

Grey cat, dilated pupils

Look at the many pictures on the internet. Notice the cats — many of them have eyes as dilated as they can get. The cats have enough sense to be very frightened. I’m sure they can sense the fear of their humans as well. 

I am amazed that more cats didn’t freak, when taken from their home. Some cats, I’m sure, would not submit easily to the journey. It comforts me to see many of these animals clinging to their human, showing they understand that their safety lies with remaining with their family.

Cats can give the people traveling with them something outside their own helpless plight to think about. A person caring for a pet will become less anxious about his own danger, as he has this frightened little creature to comfort. Indeed, the comforting goes both ways. Giving and receiving affection can also help quiet the fear just a bit.

We see countless stories of people and their pets, as they live through this tragedy. We must realize our good fortune that we do not have to experience it, though watching the scenes unfold reminds us to express gratitude for being spared.

We have reminders of our own humanity when we see these cats, so important to their family that they join the long journey to find a peaceful, safe place. Pets help us remember that, behind each animal, there is also a human life at stake.

I have selected a few of the multiple stories on the internet about people and pets, and am happy to share them with you. Put yourself in the place of these people and their animal family, and empathize with them in this horrible situation.

Instagram Cat Star, Stepan, Made It To Safety

The first story I’ll share is one that spread like wildfire, as major news sources picked it up. It’s the story of Stepan, Ukraine’s most famous cat, and how he made it to safety.

Stepan, an Instagram star, comes from Kharkiv, Ukraine. When he finally made it to France, his more than one million followers found great satisfaction in knowing he reached safety.

Stepan, being a “petfluencer,” has amassed such support from his fans that he received help in his escape to safety. When his home city, Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine, came under attack, the Russians bombing the city’s Freedom Square and opera house, it became time to move away.

Ukrainian cat — Could be Stepan’s brother

Anna, Stepan’s human, relocated her cat and two sons to a basement when their electricity went out. Then Stepan and family took a train to Poland. 

They stood in line at the border for nine hours, then finally crossed into Poland on foot. Then, the World Influencers and Bloggers Association stepped in. This organization helped the family get through Poland to a safe house in France.

The Association rented an apartment for them for as long as needed. When the Association made the announcement that cat and family had reached safety, widespread relief and joy spread through the many followers. By Wednesday night of that week, more than 14,400 people had left messages of love and support.

This amazing rescue shows what can happen if a pet has reached the celebrity stage. Too bad more cats (and people) couldn’t have received the same treatment. Unfortunately, other stories contain more trials and hardships.

Cats And Humans Experience Terror And Hardship

In Korczowa, Poland, Elizabeth Hissa sits on a camp bed piled with blankets. Elizabeth, her mother, Oksana, and her grandmother, Lubov, discussed their tense evacuation as they rushed through the Ukrainian countryside with their three cats. Lights flash from distant towns under bombardment. 

Both humans and cats experienced terror. They must have traveled by train, as the women talk about the cats’ fear, the crying, the hiding under seats.

Now, though safe, their future is uncertain. They say they still find it hard to believe this terrible war has happened. Says the grandmother, “It is like our heads are not capable of understanding.”

In Shostka, Ukraine, abandoned cats live in a bomb shelter. A couple, Tania and Valerii, decided not to leave. Instead, they started a shelter for cats. 

As the city has been blockaded, food and supplies run short, and supplies become critical. Still, more cats keep coming. The couple does their best to take care of all of them.

Cat Cafe Stays Open To Offer Food And Emotional Support

In Lviv, a small city in western Ukraine, a cat cafe stays open, offering people hot food and emotional support.

The cafe, run by Serhii Oliinyk and his partner, Marta, continues to open its doors from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Lviv, being a small city, is calmer than many larger cities. At the time of writing this article, no missiles have directly hit the city.

The cats, being used to people, offer their own kind of therapy, as cats purr and seek attention.

The couple donates part of the cafe proceeds to the Ukrainian army, which really needs support.

All He Saved Was His Cat

One story about the refugees told of a man who had nothing but the clothes he wore and his cat in a carrier. I believe that man had realized that saving a living creature he loved meant more than anything else he could take with him.

A veterinarian, Jakub Kotowicz, has rescued over 200 cats and 60 dogs. Jakub started his animal rescue charity when he was 17. Now he’s using his organization to rescue animals trapped in the war.

Jakub hopes to re-home many of these cats across Europe. Two cats have already been reunited with their Ukrainian families.

Animals going through this terror become very traumatized. One woman said that after the first air strikes, her cat couldn’t eat for three days or sleep for one whole day. She said that now he reacts to every loud sound.

These stories represent the tip of the iceberg. So many stories of cats, dogs, and the humans behind them — it is mind-boggling to consider what these people and their animals have been through and the rough road they still have in front of them.

One article expressed the idea that the entire country is experiencing a collective PTSD.

The three videos included with this post give you a glance at the situation. Go online and look at some of the pictures, if you have not already done so. Unfortunately, I cannot reproduce them here because of copyright restrictions.

If you would like to donate to a Ukrainian relief fund, here is a link to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) that will take you to a page where you can donate to help refugee animals. Or, if you would prefer, you can send a check to: 

IFAW, 290 Summer Street, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675

Here’s the link:

References I used for this post:

4 thoughts on “Ukrainian Cat Refugees Evacuated With Human Families”

    • I’m sure you would be one of the ones who found a way to do it. It’s hard to imagine, though — I agree — just makes me so thankful that I am not in that situation. I wish them all well.

  1. Fran, this is nothing less than a wonderfully penned story about a tragic tragic situation. It is impossible to grasp such a trauma among the families and their unconditionally loving fur families. We sit comfortably and watch fear and heartbreak in such a great amount that we can feel the pain. I have donated, and I would challenge your readers, their friends and families …people you just meet to do the same. When WILL we understand that the world is a community, and we all bleed. I don’t have a lot of money to give, by God I can give a little, as many times as I can manage. Can you? wILL you?

    Look at those poor faces. They’re frightened and hungry.

    • You are so right…it is a terrible tragedy, and their road ahead will be a rough one. I am sure they can use all the help we can give. This is why I put the link at the end of the post in the hopes that some of our readers will also donate.


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