Meet Mariya and Aleksandr Dmitriev, just like most other couples, they are animal lovers and live in a small one-bedroom apartment.One thing that would surprise you, is that they have a 90lb pet puma called Messi who lives with them.One day they saw Messi in a zoo in Penza, Russia, and fell in love. He was one of three cubs who were sold to the zoo at three months old with health problems.So the Dmitriev’s appealed to the owners of the zoo and asked if they could buy him and ultimately, save his life.
According to his wife Mariya, Aleksandr, who’s 38, always dreamed of having 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.”
Taking care of Messi was a special task, other than being a wild animal, he needed extra medical attention and care considering his condition.
“‘He was quite weak and demanded a lot of attention”
Even after Messi was nursed back to health, he was still just two-thirds the size of the average puma.
Just like all pets, he needed lots of exercise, which proved difficult considering the owners lived in a one bedroom apartment. So they had to buy a special coat and harness so they could take him out 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.”
“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 a dog, attempting to train this gentle giant was a challenge. The couple struggled to find a wild animal handler.
Eventually, they found a dog training school that would allow him to attend. This taught him to respond to around 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,” says Aleksandr.
“He’s very kind and likes contact. He gets on very well with people”
Of course, having such a large exotic cat in your house is rare, so the Dmitrievs document their day to day life on social media, and people seem to love it.
The Instagram account has over 1.5m followers and the Youtube account has over 1.78m subscribers.
Even though the couple only lived in a one bed apartment at the time of adoption, they did their best to accomodate their large buddy.
They converted their hallway into the big cat’s den, complete with a tree, hiding hole and bamboo walls.
“He is just an ordinary cat, but a big one. He has all the habits of a cat”
Understandably, there have been some objections to an exotic animal living in a human home.
But the couple believes he wouldn’t survive alongside other animals since he has never lived alone in the wild, also considering his health problems.
“Of course it’s quite dangerous having such a large cat at home, but Messi is a special animal”