Having a pet brings a different sense of responsibility to a person's life. Not only do they have to care for their own well-being, but they have to care for the well-being of an animal. Typically, people decide to adopt a dog or cat. But sometimes, people decide to get an animal that's a little more exotic. Keep reading to discover what happened when a Russian couple adopted a puma!

Mariya and Aleksandr Dmitriev are a pretty normal, loving couple.

Well, considering the way they live their lives, normal might not be the best word to describe this couple. But there's definitely one thing for certain, this couple absolutely adores animals!

Mariya and Aleksandr were visiting the Saransk Zoo in Penza, Russia, when they met someone who would change their lives forever.

The Saransk Zoo was home to three puma cubs: Messi, Suarez, and Neymar, who were all named after World Cup soccer players. While Suarez and Neymar were born at the zoo, Messi was sold to the zoo when he was just eight months old.

Messi was suffering from health issues when he arrived at the zoo.

The staff realized that they weren't fully capable of nursing the young, sick cub back to health. Fortunately, Messi left a lasting impression on Mariya and Aleksandr Dmitriev.

Once the couple heard about Messi's condition, they thought that maybe they could buy him from the zoo.

“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. 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,” explained Mariya.

After a bit of consideration, Aleksandr and Mariya decided to make the leap.

“So we went to the zoo and started negotiations to buy Messi. We were surprised ourselves when they agreed," said Mariya. As excited as they were to bring Messi home, they would soon realize that Messi was much harder to take care of than a regular housecat.

"He was quite weak and demanded a lot of attention,” said Mariya.

The couple had a whole lot of work on their hands. Fortunately, they were able to nurse Messi back to health, but he only grew to two-thirds the size of the average puma.

The Dmitrievs bought him a special harness so they could take plenty of walks together.

“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," explained Aleksandr in an interview.

They spend 20,000-40,000 roubles (about $300-$600) every month on raw meat for Messi.

The couple has had to make a lot of sacrifices for Messi, including alterations to their personal and social life. When they go on vacation, the couple has to find locations within driving distance since most hotels don't allow pumas.

Messi can currently understand ten different commands.

It was difficult finding a wild animal handler to train Messi. The couple finally found a dog training school so Messi could pick up some basic instructions. "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.

Since adopting Messi, the Dmitrievs have received a lot of attention from curious strangers.

In fact, they received so much attention that they decided to start documenting their lives on social media. Messi even has his own Instagram page with 656,000 followers.

Messi's YouTube account has more than 175,000 followers.

“He does not realize that he is a star and, thank God, as stars usually have demands… He lives here without any special treatment. He eats what we eat, he sleeps where we sleep. He does not demand a separate bed and he does not ask for royal shrimps for breakfast,” says Aleksandr.

Living with roommates can be a pain, but imagine living with a massive cat!

The couple only has a one-bedroom apartment, but they do what they can with the space that they have. And it seems like Messi does a great job at taking up as much space as he possibly can.

They've even turned parts of their home into "Messi friendly" spaces.

Aleksandr and Mariya turned their hallway into a den for Messi, complete with a hiding hole, a tree, and a bamboo wall. Messi also has a mirrored wall so he can watch his own reflection while strolling down the hallway. Messi's favorite pastime is climbing on the bathroom window and staring out at the grassland that surrounds the apartment.

Messi's habits are very similar to a small house cat!

“He is just an ordinary cat, but a big one. He has all the habits of a cat,” explained Aleksandr. Messi likes playing with soft toys and even has a miniature soccer ball.

As you can tell, Messi seems content with his home and family, but not everyone is as happy as Messi.

The Dmitrievs have received some negative attention for keeping Messi in their home. Animals rights activists believe that Messi should live in a wildlife reserve or sanctuary. But the Dmitrievs believe that Messi would not survive in the wild with other animals since he is not trained to live on his own.

Regardless of what animal rights activists think, Mariya and Aleksandr are wonderful parents to Messi.

They show him plenty of care and attention, and they make sure that he's bathed, fed, and given plenty of exercise. It appears to us that the Dmitrievs are doing an amazing job raising this beautiful animal!

You can follow Messi on Instagram and YouTube.


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