Meet Messi, The 90lb puma who lives with their loving owners Mariya and Aleksandr Dmitriev in Russia.
The couple first met Messi at the Saransk Zoo in Penza, Russia when he was just 8 years old, and decided they wanted Messi a part of their lives, and had to have him.
Messi was one of three puma cubs that were born at the Zoo.
All of them were named after famous soccer players to celebrate the Russian city hosting four of the matching from the World Cup.
Other than Messi, the other two cubs were named Suarez and Neymar
However, one of the cubs, Messi, was sold to the zoo when he was three months old and suffering from health problems.
With the zoo unable to fully take care of the sick cub, and the couple quickly falling in love with him, the Dmitriev’s pleaded to the zoo and asked if they could buy him.
According Mariya, Aleksandr, 38, always dreamed of owning a larger than life feline, “He always thought about having a lynx – never a puma.
It’s hard to explain but we believe that having this puma is part of our destiny.”
“We had three days of thinking hard about whether it was moral to keep a puma, 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.”
Taking care of a big cat like Messi is not like taking care of any other house pet, and was a challenge for the couple in many ways.
Beyond just being the wild animal that he his, Messi also needed a lot of extra medical attention and care, ‘‘he was quite weak and demanded a lot of attention,” said Mariya.
And even though the couple was able to nurse the cub back to full health, he only grew to about two-thirds of the size of the average puma.
Which is still quite large compared to most house pets.
And just like any other pet you’d have, Messi requires lots and lots of exercise.
To help with this, his parents bought him a special harness and coat to take him on walks.
“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.”
However unlike simply training your dog to obey commands and do a few tricks, this lovable puma was not the easiest to train.
Image credits: l_am_puma
The couple tried their best to find a wild animal handler to help train Messi, but were unsuccessful.