Puma rescued from zoo lives as a giant housecat
A puma rescued from a zoo because of its ill-health now lives as a giant housecat.
The remarkable pet is called Messi, and he lives in a one-bedroomed Russian apartment with his humans Mariya and Aleksandr Dmitriev. They spotted him living in Saransk Zoo in Penza when he was just eight months old and decided that he'd make the perfect pet.
Watch Messi pruning himself like any other feline:
Messi was born at the zoo alongside his two siblings, Suarez and Neymar. However, unlike them, Messi had health problems.
Considering Messi's charm, and the fact that his ill health meant he needed a little more TLC, the Dmitrievs asked if they could buy him.
Mariya, 28, told the Mirror that Aleksandr always dreamed of having 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," she said.
She continued: "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. So we went to the zoo and started negotiations to buy Messi. We were surprised ourselves when they agreed."
However, looking after Messi has not been without its challenges. He's a wild animal, and "he was quite weak and demanded a lot of attention."
Despite looking like a big cat and being nursed back to health by the couple, he's only two-thirds of the size of an 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 knew that Messi needed some training in order to become a fully-fledged member of their family, and they took him to a dog school where he learned how to respond to ten 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," Aleksandr said.
"He is just an ordinary cat, but a big one. He has all the habits of a cat."