By Ashleigh / Dec 13, 2020
If you think you love cats, you should look at Mariya and Aleksandr Dmitriev’s cat! This is one big cat, trust us! The couple decided that instead of getting any old house cat they would rather save a puma kitten from certain death.
Messi isn’t your typical puma, we wouldn’t hurt you the moment he lays eyes on you. He’d rather snuggle or play. He acts just like any normal house cat would.
In Penza, Russia there’s the Saransk Zoo where three puma cubs were born. Because of the four games of the World Cup that Russia was hosting, they named the cubs after famous soccer players – Messi, Saurez, and Neymar.
But after only being three months old, Messa began developing health problems. The zoo tried to take care of him but would’ve preferred if he were taken off their hands.
Aleksandr Always Wanted A Big Cat
One day, Aleksandr and Mariya went to the zoo and found Messi there, eight months old. The two had always wanted to own a big cat. But that was never a reality for them, until now.
They always thought about getting a lynx but when they saw Messi they instantly fell in love with him. After they found out that he was too sick for the zoo to care for him they sprang into action and offered to take him off their hands.
Taking Messi Home
The couple was surprised when the zoo agreed to let them keep him. They knew that it would be an easy task taking care of him but they still were up for it. They were ready to bring his health back up.
Other than the obvious problems like Messi being a wild animal, he had numerous health problems and had to be looked after constantly. After they brought his health back he was still stunted, only being 2/3rds the size of a fully grown puma.
Other Challenges Arose
After Messi’s health was back to normal, they had to deal with the issue of him being a wild animal. They needed to find an animal trainer that was willing to help Messi. But no one wanted to help them.
The couple has to raise Messi in a one-bedroom apartment. They’ve made major changes to the apartment like making the hallway a den for Messi. He even has his own tree as a scratching post.
It’s Kinda Like Raising A Dog
The couple finally managed to find a dog trainer that was willing to help train Messi. After a few classes, he now knows ten commands and needs plenty of exercise.
Messi didn’t have an opportunity to get any exercise while he was at the zoo. The couple got him a strong harness and take him on two walks every day, each walk lasts an hour.
There’s Still Challenges
While the couple knows that their beautiful cat is harmless, a lot of animal activists don’t agree with them keeping him. Many have said that it’s an injustice that he stays with them rather than being in the wild. But the couple knows that he wouldn’t make it in the wild.
Other people have said that even if he looks mild-mannered, they’ll be a day when his instincts kick in and no one knows what he’ll do. But for now, Messi will stay with the family that raised him – Aleksandr and Mariya.
Having Messi Doesn’t Break Any Laws
A lot of activists have even wondered if the couple can legally own Messi. It turned out that they can. A lot of countries have laws surrounding keeping wild animals as domestic pets but in Russia, there don’t seem to be any.
The only laws surrounding wild animals are if you’re involved in injuring or killing one. So that means that the couple can keep Messi indefinitely. Mike Tyson and his tiger weren’t actually breaking any laws either.
Social Media Loves Him
With the controversy around the morals and legality of having him as a pet, there are also plenty of fans that have come to love Messi. They gave him his own Instagram account and he’s gained over 944,000 followers.
He even has a Youtube account with 345,000 followers. If you take a look at his videos you can see lots of videos of him exercising with Aleksandr and even one of him bathing.
Messi Hates The Vet
Messi might be two years old now but he still carries some health complications from his youth. The worst of it is his muscle atrophy from when he was a cub and rickets that come from all the neglect that he faced.
Because of these complications, Messi needs to take vitamin and mineral supplements regularly to keep his bones strong. Even today he still walks with a slight limp and gets regular check-ups.
Argentina Got Two More Fans
Messi may have been named after the soccer player but that doesn’t mean his new owners were ever fans of soccer. But after adopting him the couple has changed their attitude when it comes to Argentina.
After Messi came into their lives, the couple has started watching soccer together, spurring on Messi just because of their puma. Thanks to Messi Argentina has two new fans.
It Isn’t Cheap To Keep Messi Happy And Healthy
Pet owners spend an average of $1,285 on their pets every year. Americans alone spend $70 billion on pets every year. Taking care of Messi also comes with a high price tag. He is fed twice a day and his diet consists of raw turkey, beef, and chicken.
Mariya and Aleksandr say that it costs about 20,000-40,000 rubles every month to feed him. That equals out to $300-$600 just for food. That doesn’t even include any of the pricey vet bills.
Messi Entertains Himself At Home
Mariya and Aleksandr have gone to great lengths to make sure Messi feels at home in their apartment. His favorite toys to play with are empty bottles and balls. He frequently plays with his miniature soccer ball that was a gift from a Brazilian journalist.
Along with his specially-crafted climbing nook, Messi has a mirrored wall so he can keep himself entertained. Or, he can just sit beside the mirrored wall looking pensive while “Reflection” from Mulan plays in the background.
The Dog Training Is Actually Working
It might sound crazy, but those dog training classes that Mariya and Aleksandr enrolled Messi in have actually worked. He knows ten commands and the list keeps growing. Messi is also perfectly fine walking in a harness and the couple says he rarely pulls.
Not only is his training working but Messi is a good friend to the other dogs in the class. All the neighborhood dogs have taken a liking to Messi and have no problems letting him learn with them.
He’s Even House Trained
Not only is Messi on the way to being a well-trained puma in public, but Mariya and Aleksandr have even managed to house train him. Messi does most of his business outside when they go on walks and short day-trips.
When the option for a walk isn’t there, Messi has been trained to relieve himself in the bathtub. It’s the same bathtub that Messi has been trained to calmly sit in when Mariya and Aleksandr give him a bath.
Cuddling Is Messi’s Favorite Pastime
When Mariya and Aleksandr brought Messi home, he was calm but he wasn’t super affectionate. Over the years, Messi has slowly become affectionate towards his human family and become more and more like a typical house cat.
Messi loves to be stroked and especially loves getting scratched behind his ears. He has his own “cat” bed but will often lay with Aleksandr in the couple’s bed. Messi even learned not to have his claws out when jumping on the bed.
Having A Puma Can Be Limiting
Mariya and Aleksandr admit that having a large cat-like Messi as a pet has put some limitations on their life. Right now, the only options for holidays are those within driving distance. That doesn’t mean they can’t find a hotel that will allow Messi to stay though.
Aleksandr, who works at a printing house in town, also admits that he can no longer join his friends for a drink after work since he has to walk Messi. Those problems won’t sound unfamiliar for anyone with a dog or kids though.
There Are Some Animals He Doesn’t Like
While Messi is gentle and has never attacked a human, Mariya and Aleksandr have found that there are some animals that he just doesn’t like. Messi is usually timid of any animals that are larger than him and make strange sounds.
Mariya and Aleksandr found that out the hard way when they took Messi to visit a farm with cows. Luckily, Messi won’t actually harm the animals. He’ll just stay on guard until they are gone.
Their Housecat Isn’t Much Of A Fan Either
The other animals that Messi doesn’t get along with is Mariya and Aleksandr’s other cat. The couple already had six-year-old Sphynx cat named Kira before they got Messi. They introduced the two cats to each other but when Messi tried to play with Kira, she hissed and tried to claw him.
Since Kira isn’t the biggest fan of Messi, Mariya and Aleksandr have made sure to keep the pair separated while in the apartment.
He Has No Idea He’s A Huge Star
One of the things Mariya and Aleksandr love about Messi is that he’s as down to earth as they come. Mariya said she “thanks God” he doesn’t realize he’s a star because “stars usually have demands.”
Instead, Messi lives without any special treatment and doesn’t get jealous when Mariya and Aleksandr pay attention to Kira instead. Owning a puma is already pretty demanding, so Mariya is happy that “he does not ask for royal shrimps for breakfast.”
Messi Isn’t The Only Big Cat They Want
You might think raising a puma and a sphynx cat would be enough for Mariya and Aleksandr, but the couple has expressed a desire for more cats. They plan to move from their apartment and into a bigger house in the near future to give their cats more space.
The pair also hope to adopt a leopard in the future as a companion for Messi. The couple will likely end up with more criticism if they adopt another large cat, but they don’t seem too phased about it. All they care about is giving Messi the best life they can.