Dog and Cat Influencers Step Up to Help Ukrainians Deal With Stress

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson
Photo Credit: AnastaKUCH /

We’ve all heard of dogs being used for emotional support by those in distress and have learned that even a gnarly feline can comfort the elderly in nursing homes. But what if the job was bigger? Much bigger. What if the goal was to help ease the daily stress of living in a war-ravaged country? Such as the Ukraine.

Well, that’s exactly what Jack Russell terrier, Patron, and tabby cat Stepan have signed up for.

Patron’s already a valued member of Ukraine’s state emergency service because of his skills at sniffing out landmines. But it’s that charismatic personality of his that kick-started his side hustle as a social media influencer. In fact, he has hundreds of thousands of online followers that all tap in to read his hopeful messages ranging from practical advice on what to do if you suspect you’ve spotted an explosive device to emotional comfort on how to cope with the tension of an ongoing war.

Patron’s amiable presence and reassuring memes have been lauded by President Volodymyr Zelensky who awarded this pint-sized powerhouse with a medal for “dedicated service.” From meeting with foreign dignitaries – which helped secure donations of much-needed mine-clearing equipment - to fund-raising and peering back from t-shirts, notebooks, Christmas ornaments and even an official stamp produced by Ukraine postal service… everyone is celebrating Patron’s heroic war efforts.

Now, when it comes to the rather stoic-looking feline Stepan, we’ve got much less action and a lot more attitude. You see, Stepan lives in one of Ukraine’s largest cities and it was heavily damaged by early Russian shelling. Like many pet parents, his owner had already set him up with his own Instagram account and while the images shared still retain the aloof disinterest only a cat can muster, the commentary coming “from Stepan” speak out loudly against the war.

Well, who knew the world would turn to a cat for emotional support? Yes, fast forward and this tenacious tabby has now reached 1.3 million followers and is using this influential status to help raise funds for animals injured or displaced by war. In 2022 alone, Stepan brought in over $27,000 USD for food, meds care, and to help evacuate animals from the floods that followed the bombing of the Kakhovka Dam in southern Ukraine.

But it’s not all humour and it’s not all fund-raising. Stepan also shares messages of hope – geared toward the younger crowd – that speaks to his desire for victory to be had, the war to end, and for all animals to be safe again. Something we can all get behind.

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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