A Russian couple lives with their pet cougar in a small studio apartment, and he’s just another member of their family.
Alexandr Dmitriev and his wife, Mariya, decided to adopt a young cougar from a petting zoo in 2016 and have been raising the 2-year-old cat, Messi, as a house pet ever since.
“The first time we saw him in the zoo, I think we both had the same feeling towards this animal,” Mariya Dmitriev told Barcroft. “It was such an excitement, such tenderness. Like, I don’t know, it’s impossible to grasp but it was very strong."
Messi follows a strict diet of turkey, beef, a bit of chicken breast and some bones. He gets washed in the bath, has his nails trimmed, his teeth checked and he receives a special brush-down every day. His food intake costs the family about $10 a day.
“We give him different types of meat so that he can get all the necessary vitamins and micronutrients,” Alexandr Dmitriev said.
The couple has established a very close relationship with the cat. He loves to be cuddled and petted.
And fortunately, the cougar has never seriously bitten his owners. The couple says they completely trust Messi.
“We live together, sleep together," Alexandr Dmitriev said. "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.”
Due to unforeseen health issues, Messi is actually about half the size of a fully-grown cougar.
That doesn’t stop others from fearing the cat. While some are amazed and ask to pet Messi, others might keep their distance.
Fans on social media love the cat and Messi has become a local celebrity with more than 250,000 Instagram followers.
"It was love at first sight," Alexandr Dmitriev said. "He’s an amazing cat, loyal and very kind."