The internet is full of cute cat content ― cats wearing funny outfits, cat memes, cats chasing lasers, and of course, everyone loves a good “cat-does-incredible-thing” story. However, not everything you see online is true, even feel-good cat claims.
This tweet, posted Feb. 27, claims that Ukraine is using cats in the war against Russia.
#Ukraine army cats are trained to spot and direct the location of #Russiansniper laser dots. This is Mikael “The panther of Kharkiv” who single handed exposed the location of 4 Snipers which ended in their deaths. #RussiaUkraineWar #invasionofUkraine #Putin #VolodymyrZelensky pic.twitter.com/E4OUoKIqkr
— R. Mônzon 🇺🇦🌻11:11 (@NowImNothing_) February 27, 2022
“#Ukraine army cats are trained to spot and direct the location of #Russiansniper laser dots,” the tweet reads. “This is Mikael ‘The panther of Kharkiv’ who single handed exposed the location of 4 Snipers which ended in their deaths.”
Here’s how we fact-checked it.
Look for red flags
First, this tweet comes from an unverified account. While a blue checkmark doesn’t automatically make something true, during a crisis like what we’re seeing in Ukraine, you want to make sure you’re getting all of your news and updates from trusted, reputable sources — and not just random people online.
Another red flag is the fact that the tweet doesn’t provide any sources. If this claim were true, there would probably be a lot of reporting on this that the person could have included.
Do a reverse image search
A great way to fact-check viral photos like this one is to do a reverse Google reverse image search. If you’re on mobile, download and upload the photo to images.google.com. Otherwise, right-click the photo and click “Search with Google Lens.”
As to be expected, the results did bring up a lot of photos of cats, but the results also brought up several fact checks for this image, including a fact check from USA Today stating that the claim was completely fabricated.
According to the article, not only is there zero evidence that the Ukrainian army is using cats to identify sniper lasers but “lasers are not a common element of sniper warfare, and the photo in the post predates the Russian invasion of Ukraine.” According to USA Today, the photo has been circulating the web since as early as 2018.
Try a keyword search
Doing a quick search of “Mikael the panther of Kharkiv” led to an article from AFP fact-check. AFP, or Agence France – Presse, is a legit international news agency headquartered in Paris. According to the article, while it’s true that militaries have weaponized animals throughout history, this claim is completely made up.
AFP interviewed Liam Collins, a former director of the Modern War Institute at West Point who in the past also served as a defense adviser to Ukraine. He called this story “complete garbage,” saying, “I guess it is possible that someone would have a visible pointer on their rifle, but I just can’t imagine why anyone would do that. And then what is the cat going to do? Run around the room chasing the laser like a toy? How is that helpful to the soldier?”
Not Legit. This photo is multiple years old, Ukraine isn’t using cats to spot lasers and lasers are not a common part of sniper warfare. Remember, old photos can easily be resurfaced and used to spread false stories years later, so you should always be skeptical of photos without sources.