What You Need To Know About Cats In Ukraine by Layla Morgan Wilde
What started as a fact-finding mission about pets in war-torn Ukraine turned into a touching story about one cat mom and a visual love letter to Ukraine.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has now entered its second week, and the media has been captivated by the evacuation of both people and their beloved pets. From heartwarming images of furry friends being rescued, to heart-wrenching scenes of families leaving their homes behind, the coverage has been extensive. However, I was curious to delve deeper into the true nature of the human-animal bond and uncover the story behind the headlines. Specifically, I wanted to investigate rumors about Ukrainians evacuating with their pets rather than abandoning them.
And because a picture tells a thousand words, I’ve created shareable graphics to help share the word to #SUPPORTUKRAINE Please share.
Understanding the significance of Ukraine is essential, as the invasion of the global breadbasket has far-reaching economic consequences that impact everyone. The recent surge in gas prices is one example. Even the cat world is feeling the impact of sanctions, as Russian cats are now banned from international cat shows. More on this topic and update will be covered in my next post.
Let’s take a journey down the rabbit hole with a short video by Kviv-based filmmaker Olya Zhurba, as she captures the mood of evacuees at the Kyiv train station on March 3, 2022. (Update: Unfortunately, the video is no longer available, but it conveyed the desperation of people leaving with next to nothing). I witnessed one man carrying a cat carrier, with only the clothes on his back. With 7.5 million pet cats in Ukraine and 43 million humans, nearly 2 million people have evacuated. However, the fate of the cats is uncertain, and it’s likely that many have been left behind. The recent Russian “Special Operation” resulted in the bombing and killing of civilians, and animal shelters were not spared. It’s a tragic situation, and no civilians are to blame for the unexpected turn of events.
The situation in Ukraine is so grim, I’ve added touches of humor with photo captions to make the unbearable slightly more bearable.
I don’t think any of us can imagine evacuating with our cats to a subway. Not for a few hours but for days like this fellow with his cat.
Ukraine has an entire generation of children traumatized for life because of one power hungry mad man. Putin has dozens of derogatory nicknames in Russian but in English we have Putler and Pootin.
Meanwhile, there are lots of photos online of soldiers rescuing or hanging out with pets. But as always, don’t believe everything you see online. This image was originally posted on Reddit two years ago. My added caption is timeless.
This photo was taken on the first day of evacuations but people are grubbier and more stressed after non-stop shelling and mortar fire day and night. Many residential neighbors are badly damaged or bombed out. Many have lost their homes and everything they own.
In the worst possible situations, the human-animal bond among cat lovers is universal and timeless.
On Reddit, I was intrigued by a photo of a young woman with her cat, Isza. I followed the post for updates in the comments. A few days later, a short, “I’m sick and won’t be posting.” My heart sank. We all know how dilated a cat’s pupils get when they stressed and afraid. Of all the photos I came across, there was something that touched me deeply. I had to find them.
When we see a sea of humanity torn apart by war, there are crowds of nameless people. Lining up at train stations carrying a bag, a pet, a teddy bear, their lives uprooted for no logical reason. Without names and stories they remain moving images on TV or photos on social media. We can detach, keep scrolling, ignoring but every face has a story.
I found her on Instagram. Putting a face to a name was a start. I messaged her not expecting anything. What a joy to put a face to a name. She exists. Kateryna Dehtiarova. The cat exists. Isza. They had a life before the invasion. Everyone in Ukraine did.
Curious, I scrolled down her feed. She’s a proud cat mom of several cats, loves video games and she’s a ballerina. It sounded so Instagram normal like my life or yours.
The contrast was jarring: just three months ago, she was performing in a ballet on stage but now sleeping in the subway. Witnessing this harsh reality hit me hard, and I couldn’t help but cry. It wasn’t just about her, but also about everyone else whose lives have been forever changed, regardless of age or species. Although cities have been rebuilt countless times before, I can’t help but wonder about the cost to our collective psyche and the soul of their nation.
A few weeks ago on Valentine’s Day, Kateryna posted this pic Isza with roses. Those of us on Instagram can relate. The cute, loving ordinariness of it all. There was no clue, no hint of the future horror.
Thankful for Google translate, I found out Kateryna is an accomplished ballerina at the illustrious National Opera of Ukraine All programs are paused. The last performance of The Snow Queen was Feb.26, 2022.
Ballerinas like all dancers are disciplined and need regular workouts. I was heartened to get a DM. Kateryna was sick and left the subway. She’d gone into hiding in the countryside near Kyiv.
“Because of Russian occupation there are no supplies. Besides we are doing what we can to help the army.”
I asked about Isza and wanted to deepen the dialogue but writing in English is difficult and she’s still not feeling well. It’s hard to imagine the stress of being ripped from a cozy home to sleeping in a subway with shrill non-stop noise. My heart goes out more than ever to all pets in Ukraine.
“My cat after the first air strikes, he couldn’t eat for three days or sleep for one whole day. After that, he reacts to every loud sound.”
I think the entire country is experiencing a collective PTSD. She continues,
We have a problem with supplies, especially cat food. In our town we have some cat food in markets but it will end soon. We don’t actually know what to do. We have three cats, Isza and two other cats who live here.
She shared a story about someone who had to leave their cat in the apartment.
I think many of have had to leave suddenly and in a panic not be able to find a hiding cat. Pet food shortages are growing worse and all animal shelters, rescue groups and zoos will run out within days. It’s urgent.
Kateryna shared a story about a cat left behind without food.
On the 4th day the neighbor’s heard sounds behind the wall. They found a way to reach the owner of the flat. He gave permission to make a hole in the wall near a door so the neighbor could feed the cat. The neighbors are feeding it and the cat is saved for now.
I don’t think anyone would deliberately leave their cat behind or kill them as some fake news suggests.
Update one year later: Kateryna and her cats survived their exodus from Kiev. They spent time at her family’s country home in the mountains and in Odessa. Kateryna has returned to her home in Kiev and is dancing again. She has adopted another cat. In her heart, she would love to adopt all of them but she is more pragmatic now.The war changes everyone and for Kateryna it changed everything except her deep abiding love of cats.
Sharethetruth.org is sharing daily updates on the war.
My top choices for donations are:
3: Best Friends houses over 900 animals from cats, dogs, horses, goats etc. They sustained major damage from shelling and many animals died from fire. What’s critically needed is hand’s on help feeding, cleaning and repairing.
4. I’ve designed t-shirts in support of animal rescue in Ukraine from my Meow Magic Shop
How can you help? Beware: scammers are out there. Check out the latest on who to trust here.
Donating funds is not an option for many but there are many ways to help by simply creating awareness by sharing posts like this. Other action-oriented ways to help like signing petitions, fact check and don’t share fake news, tell friends in Ukraine to protest, use hashtags #supportukraine #standwithukraine, #catsforukraine #BanRussiafromSwift #CloseTheSky #SendNatoToUkraine.
If you’d like to send Kateryna and her cats some love visit her Instagram page @KATERYNA_DEHTIAROVA
I found a pic of Isza from a year ago when he was a kitten so he’s only about a year and a half. I hope his next birthday finds him in peace. I will stay in touch and update as things progress, but I’ll end for now with a photo quote edit I made for him.
P.S. As you may know, I’m a Canadian who has lived in New York for twenty years but I’m also a Finnish citizen. My DNA roots are spread over Sweden, Finland, Russia including what is Ukraine today. As a proud Finn, I had to share this pic I edited. I visited there this past summer where pro-Ukraine sentiments are strong.
For our black cat community. Imagine an army of cats in solidarity. Yes we can!
And because even small actions can yield big results. Please do whatever your heart and wallet dictates. If nothing else, share a graphic or the entire post. Thank you!
Cheers! Or as they say in Ukrainian, Budmo!
We were running low on vodka and my husband came home with a vodka from Ukraine KHOR. It’s excellent. Russian vodka sales are comparatively tiny so it is a symbolic gesture. Ironically, shelves of Stolichnaya were not selling. Apparently the brand is no longer made in Russia and the pro-Ukraine CEO has re-branded to Stoli.
Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine and whether you like to pray, visualize or imagine, we can hope for peace in the near future.
Glory to Ukraine!
Much love and Slava Ukraini,