Three-legged Ukrainian cat 'hours from death' now happily living 1,600 miles away in Birmingham

Wendy Lloyd, from Harborne, first met Rocket in a makeshift animal shelter in the mountains around Kyiv Credit: BPM Media

A cat that nearly died after being abandoned by its owners fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is now living happily almost 1,600 miles away, in Birmingham.

Wendy Lloyd, from Harborne, first met Rocket in a makeshift animal shelter in the mountains around Kyiv.

At that point, the three-legged cat had no name, because the lady running the pop-up sanctuary had seen his chances of survival so slim that there was no point in naming him.

Wendy said: "The place he was staying was very cramped - through no fault of her own, this poor lady was inundated with 40 to 50 lost, abandoned and injured animals."

Rocket was set free by his owners fleeing the city of Irpin - which is now almost entirely destroyed by war.

He then lost a leg after being hit by the car of another family also desperate to escape the conflict.

Wendy had spent a few weeks helping the 'forgotten' animals of war, so knew exactly who could nurse Rocket back to health.

'Rocket' the cat lost a leg after being hit by the car of a family desperate to escape the conflict. Credit: BPM Media

After an emergency trip to the vet, he's now settled in his new forever home in Birmingham.

Wendy said: "I've always loved animals and had a couple of dogs in Harborne, but animal rescue work has never been a lifelong passion."

She had gone out to Ukraine originally to help refugees crossing the border into Poland.

"I fell into the whole animal side of things to be honest," she added.

"It was simply a case that we went out there to help people, and when we'd done all we could, we diverted our resources to animals."

Wendy is part of a network of volunteers helping displaced Ukrainians fleeing the frontline.

She has helped desperate families over the past few months in cities like Kyiv, Chernihiv, Bucha and Lviv. She says she understands why many have to leave their pets.

Wendy Lloyld had gone out to Ukraine originally to help refugees, before turning her efforts to helping the country's abandoned animals. Credit: BPM Media

"When people flee an area there’s no rule book," Wendy says. "Some people would lock their pets in their homes, putting down as much food and water as they could and leg it - while others would set them free onto the street.

"It’s a horrible decision for families to have to make - if you’re a mum and you have to choose between saving your children or the family pet, you know which one you’re going to take.

"There’s a lot of work going on as we speak with charities breaking into homes and rescuing deserted animals.

"Russian soldiers would hand out food to civilians - as part of their propaganda mission - but the animals wouldn’t get anything.

"So we set up feeding stations on street corners where dogs and other animals - which were once domesticated - could eat.

"A lot of strays have now formed packs and it’s surreal because when you think about packs of stray dogs you’d think they would be vicious, but they’re all just the sweetest, most cuddly things."

Rocket has become a regular at the Twelfth Man pub in Edgbaston. Credit: BPM Media

Before leaving Ukraine, Wendy visited the mountains to deliver aid to a woman who had set up a makeshift shelter for injured animals.

One particular cat caught her eye and Wendy felt compelled to do something.

"We were in Lviv towards the end of our trip and suddenly the air raid sirens started going off to warn us that shelling was imminent.

"The noise just goes through your bones - it's terrifying.

"Eight missiles came over our heads and we had to sit tight - the cat was the only one of us who wasn’t panicking.

"We were in the middle of having a discussion about what to call him so we settled on Rocket - he also looks like Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy so it works both ways!"

Wendy says Rocket is very settled in his new Birmingham home and 'acts more like a dog' than a cat, making friends with neighbours."He doesn’t do cat things as such, he comes to the pub with me and has become a regular at the Twelfth Man in Edgbaston.

"It only took a few days for his personality to come out but he’s doing amazingly well."