Meet Messi, the cougar that lives with a brave couple in Russia.
The wild cat has been dubbed a “model and internet celebrity” by the public; And yes, he has his own Instagram account.
Alexandr Dmitriev and his wife Mariya adopted the young cougar from a petting zoo in 2016. Workers at the petting zoo had originally planned to euthanize him due to health issues. The couple wouldn’t stand for it, saying they experienced “love at first sight” when they met the cat and noticed his exceptionally gentle personality. The striking cat was so ill when they first met him that he could barely walk; he had to be taught how to run and jump. Because of this, he’s now smaller than the average cougar.
The trio share a two story house on a large plot of land in Penza, Russia. Their house has been adapted to meet Messi’s needs, with a hallway converted into a den and walls covered in bamboo to allow him to scratch.
The beautiful beast is clearly living well, and is regularly brushed, offered toys, and given cozy beds to lounge on. Dmitriev is smitten with the big cat. “He is as attached to me as I am to him,” he said. “He is really a member of the family and perhaps my best friend ever.”
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You can see how much Messi loves his adoptive dad:
Some have criticized the couple for keeping a big cat in their home, fearing that Messi’s wild needs will not be met. They advise the Dmitrievs to send Messi to a wildlife reserve or sanctuary. The Dmitrievs, however, believe that Messi would not be able to survive in a wild setting.
This is an extraordinarily unique situation — in general, we would never recommend keeping a wild cat in your home.
Learn more about how this unique relationship began in the video below: