Why is it that animal suffering brings about such strong feelings in most of us? Is it their inherent goodness, the unconditional love they give to their owner, or the vulnerability we see in them? Regardless of the reason, we tend to root for our furry friends, wanting the best for them. I know you cried for Hachi, don’t deny it. Parker was never coming home.

Home; a place of safety, comfort, love. It is one of the bases of our survival, yet, millions of people have lost theirs in the war between Ukraine and Russia. Yet, they don’t flee alone—they take their pets with them.

Animals have suffered in this war; the loud noises, the commotion, the lack of food… And yet as much as we need our pets for comfort, they seem to need us for the same exact reasons. A video showing a woman carrying and comforting a cat as sirens sound across the city of Kyiv prompted a question: how has the war affected the animals of Ukraine? Let’s get into it!

A video has shown a woman carrying and comforting a black cat amid blaring sirens in Kyiv, Ukraine

One of those moments has been captured by Trey Yingst, a foreign reporter based in Ukraine. She shared a video on Twitter of a young woman walking down the sidewalk, cradling a black cat in her arms. She is shown rubbing her cheek against the cat’s head to bring it some comfort and, no doubt, receiving it in kind, while air raid sirens sound out across Kyiv, painting a foreboding picture of danger and uncertainty.

It’s unclear if the woman is the cat’s owner or if she’d found it cradled somewhere, but it shows how necessary it is for both humans and cats to have a sense of comfort, regardless of the circumstances at hand. Trey has shared multiple videos of this kind, where people have been showing kindness to animals, stating “Humanity continues.”

The video reminded us that people are not the only ones suffering the horrors of war, but pets need comfort too

But as touching as this video is, it is difficult not to see it as bittersweet. As there is little context to the video at hand, one must ponder, is the cat the only thing left to remind her of what home used to be like? How they cuddled up in peace before the war, pondering small insignificant details of what life is to bring.

And now, as we see in these pictures below, the small worlds people have created have been shattered and burnt down to nothing. So to embrace familiarity, a pet, like a family member, can be the line between losing everything and still having hope.

We clutch onto what we believe brings us peace. And when things people have worked hard for turn to dust before them, the embrace of a pet can be their only comfort. For the animal as well, escaping fire, rubble, and noise can be traumatizing. The need for the familiar becomes stronger than ever.

A lot of these photographs show just that⁠—the need for an embrace. If any of you readers have had a cat before, you’ll know that they’re not easy to hold unless they want to be held.

Erica said that a lot of the times people carry their pets as a source of comfort, wanting to keep them close. Other times, the pets might be older, “have challenges walking, and, if there is active shelling in the area, the animals might become too scared to walk, thus necessitating their owner carry them.”

Puppies are also seen among the rubble, needing reassurance and their owners more than ever before

According to Wag Walking, dogs have a great way of sensing danger, based on their superior senses of smell and hearing, even the capability to sense changes in the barometric pressure.

However, these capabilities also leave pups vulnerable to PTSD, which can be caused by a traumatic event. So it is no surprise that dogs need the love and care of their owners as much as the owners need comfort coming from a member of the family.

“Try to make things as fun as possible—give treats, favorite toys, and don’t be afraid to comfort your pet. Petting can help decrease heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels in dogs. If it’s extreme, check with a veterinary behaviorist about medication that could help and an applied behaviorist to get more detailed behavior plans.”

Wars have rarely been fought without a furry friend, either assisting in war duties or just providing company

In addition to that, dogs have alerted soldiers to artillery, gas, and infantry attacks. In Iraq and Afghanistan, dogs served primarily in explosive detection roles, helping soldiers avoid IEDs and mines.

But pups weren’t the only ones aiding the soldiers, cats have had their roles, too!

Cats have shown themselves to be great mascots in aiding morale and catching pesky mice trying to eat the soldiers’ food

Not only were animals great allies to the war efforts, they were also there to boost morale and provide comfort and a sense of home for the soldiers who’d been away from it.

Often pets and mascots were adopted along the way by soldiers and sailors who found an abandoned kitty or puppy, similarly to Rambo’s story recently, which will be linked here. It is clear to see that the roles of mascot and ally are still applicable to this day.

Wars have a significant impact on those that cannot be taken care of in a warzone, such as zoo animals, livestock, and work animals

However, the realities for these and other animals not part of the mascot team are not as wholesome.

According to the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS), wars have often led to animal casualties and deaths, caused by becoming enemy targets, use of poor training methods and housing, overwork and exhaustion, exposure to heat or cold, starvation, thirst, disease and abandonment.

Pets are not the only ones to worry about. The wildlife suffers even from low-level human conflict, with usual habitats destroyed and breeding grounds compromised.

Zoo animals are often the victims of conflict, often seen as a liability. The animals can be killed, injured, starved, and abandoned, let alone the multitudes of other scenarios I do not want to mention. Let’s also not forget livestock and working animals, who would have to be left behind in order for the owners to escape a potential warzone.

But people will not leave their pets behind. Those that can leave will do so with their animal companions. I guess the question there is—why? Why risk so much for an animal?

Well, according to Transitions Life Care, animals can give you a sense of purpose and a reason to get out of bed when you are feeling particularly depressed or anxious.

They can have a deeply calming effect on humans and can often pick up on their owner’s moods, snuggling up or trying their best to make you happier. They give us meaning and the bond between owner and pet cannot be underestimated. They need one another through thick and thin.

Lots of unknowns await the world, but what we can learn from these acts of kindness is to stay human

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