A 90lb puma named Messi shares a one bead-room apartment with his owners Mariya and Aleksandr Dmitriev, the couple from Russia first spotted Messi-the puma at the Sarnsk Zoo in Penza when he was eight-months-old and they decided that they had to have him. The puma named Messi was one of three cougar cubs born at the zoo, the two other cubs were also named after famous players Suarez and Neymar. The wild cat was sold to the Saransk Zoo when he was three months old and suffered from health problems. Enamored with the sickly zoo animal the Dmitriev’s appealed to the owners and asked if they could buy him.
According to his wife Mariya, Aleksandr, 38, had always dreamed of owning a big cat, “He always thought about having a lynx – never a puma. It’s hard to explain but we believe that having this puma as a house cat is part of our destiny.”
“We had three days of thinking hard about whether it was moral to keep such an exotic pet, and whether it was common sense to have one. But nothing could fight our sudden wish,” Mariya, 28, told the Mirror. “So we went to the zoo and started negotiations to buy Messi. We were surprised ourselves when they agreed.”
The cat needed extra medical attention and care, “‘he was quite weak and demanded a lot of attention,” said Mariya. Even though the couple has nursed the cub back to health, he is still only two-thirds of the size of the average puma.
“He is like a dog. We started taking him for a walk, step by step. The animal hadn’t been really active before, Aleksandr said in an interview with RT, “Now we walk a lot twice a day, as it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t differ much from owning a dog in this sense.”
The couple found a dog training school he could attend and now responds to about 10 different commands.
“He convinced us with his behavior that he’s a full member of our family and that he wouldn’t be doing anything bad apart from some small naughty things. He’s very kind and likes contact. He gets on very well with people,” says Aleksandr.
The Cat Messi have over 1,5m followers on his @I_am_puma account and over 1.7m subscribers on his YouTube account.
“He is just an ordinary cat, but a big one. He has all the habits of a cat,” says Aleksandr.
The couple believes that he would not survive alongside other animals as he has never lived alone in the wild. “Of course it’s quite dangerous having such a large cat at home, but Messi is a special animal,” Mariya told the Mirror.