Meet the Abandoned Cats Living Inside a Bomb Shelter in Ukraine

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters day 28 and President Joe Biden heads to Europe for a series of summits, the impact of the war continues to shake the world.

The United Nations estimates that 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, and as people escape to safety, it is often impossible for them to bring more than essential belongings. For this reason, pets are being left behind.

A video of how stranded cats are being cared for in one Ukrainian city has gained attention online, with thousands reaching out to offer messages of support.

Posted on Tuesday on Reddit's popular forum r/Cats, journalist Anna Yaremenko—who uses the Reddit handle Kusias_mom—shared the video with the caption: "How cats are going through war in Ukraine." It now has over 26,000 upvotes and hundreds of comments.

By sharing the video, Anna is helping her friends Tania and Valerii—a couple who live in Shostka, a city in the northeast of Ukraine close to the Russian border.

Anna told Newsweek: "They've been living under blockade since the first days of the war. It is impossible to enter or leave the city. No new supplies, no post offices working, and hardly any shops."

The blockade means that the city isn't yet occupied, but as an act of defense, any entry or departure has been blocked.

Anna's friends decided that they did not want to leave their city: "My friends decided to have a mission since they didn't want to run. A lot of animals were left behind throughout the country. It's war, you can't blame people, but you do whatever you can to save animals.

"It's not only people suffering, because of the war, but a lot of animals too."

The video shows a group of cats living together in a bomb shelter in the city. With named cats including Milady, one-eyed Toffee and Stepashka, who loves back scratches, the couple is caring for the animals – providing food, bedding and basic care.

"For now, they're having to seek cat food, supplies, and medication," said Anna. "The city isn't big and it's been a month already and the cats just keep coming."

Reddit users have expressed love for the animals. One commenter wrote: "It breaks my heart knowing some of these are pets who couldn't be taken with their families. I'm glad there are good people keeping an eye on these little friends." Another said: "That is absolutely amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. The people who are caring for them amidst everything are wonderful."

"I worry so much about all the animals who must be so confused. My heart goes out to all in Ukraine," said one Redditor.

Cats in Ukrainian shelter
Some of the cats being cared for in the shelter in Shostka, Ukraine, left, and Toffee the cat—one of the residents of the shelter, right. The internet has praised a couple in Ukraine who are caring for abandoned pets in a bomb shelter. Kusias-mom/Reddit