There are dog people and there are cat people, then there are those that are just animal lovers. Those that enjoy cats, dogs, birds, fish, or whatever else they find, animals are just another part of the family. Then, the rare story pops up where someone goes a step further and ends up with… a cat, but not the traditional house cat. The story of Mariya and Aleksandr Dmitriev and Messi is a story of a loving cat that you would never expect. Top that off with what most would consider tight living quarters and you would think you would have a recipe for disaster. Instead, the story will make your day, as it has for thousands already.
1. The Messi Cat
For fans of football, or soccer as it is known in the states, the name Messi immediately conjures an image of one of the greatest players of his generation, if not of all time. Now, the name Messi may also remind you of a cougar that bucked the trends and expectations of everyone.
2. Mariya and Aleksandr
The Dmitriev couple share a one bedroom apartment in Russia, not far from the Saransk Zoo in Penza. Mariya says that Aleksandr had always dreamed of owning a big cat, but the cat they were about to meet was more than they expected.
3. Does Size Matter?
According to Mariya, “He always thought about having a lynx…” but what he ended up with was nothing like what he expected.
4. A Humble Beginning
It all started when three cubs were born at the zoo, Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Messi was sold to the Saransk Zoo at three months old and was suffering from health problems. This put a strain on Messi and the zoo.
5. Unlikely Allies
This is where the Dmitrievs stepped in. Upon meeting Messi, they instantly fell in love and felt it was “their destiny” according to Mariya to adopt him. They spoke with the zoo and asked if they could buy him and adopt them into their home.
6. The Waiting Game
“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,” Mariya, told the Mirror. “So we went to the zoo and started negotiations to buy Messi. We were surprised ourselves when they agreed.”
Now, the proud owners of Messi, they were a big happy family and Aleksandr finally had the big cat he always wanted, Messi the puma. The next step was learning how to share a one bedroom apartment with a big cat.
8. Living Space
Finding room for a big cat in a one bedroom apartment can be difficult. The adjustment took a little while, but in time Messi fit right in and was able to rest comfortably without crowding the rest of the family out. They were fortunate that he is smaller than most of his breed due to his early health concerns.
9. A Healthy Puma
While adjusting to the new home, the family also needed to take extra care of Messi’s health. Mariya noted that he was week and needed a lot of attention, but over time they were able to nurse him back to full health, though he ended up being about two-thirds the size of an average puma.
10. Keeping Up with the Cat
Any cat lover knows that their pets require very little in the way of exercise. Generally a few toys and a scratching post will do the trick. Cats tend to do their own thing and just hang with their family when they are done. The same can’t be said for Messi. As a big cat, exercise was extremely important.
11. Long Walks
Of course, the first goal was to get Messi to start taking walks on a harness. This was far from easy as it is not a natural thing for a puma to act like a dog. How the family figured out a way to train Messi was shocking and a sign of just how dedicated Aleksandr was to making sure Messi was brought up correctly.
12. Wild Animal Training
To start, the family looked to wild animal handlers to help train their puma. Unfortunately, things did not work out as well as they hoped and they realized that this was going to be much harder than training a dog. Messi was lovable, but not easy to train.
13. Another Try
At some point the couple decided that if they wanted to train Messi similar to how you would train a dog, the best course of action would be to try to train him with a dog training school. It took time, but they found one that allowed Messi to attend and the results were fantastic. Messi is now able to respond to 10 different commands.
14. Integrating Into the Family
While the training worked, there was still some need to ensure Messi was going to be a good pet to keep around the house. According to Aleksandr, “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.”
15. Concerns About Wild Animals
While there is great concern and many discussions about keeping wild animals as pets, the couple decided to forge ahead with Messi. Many may find this as dangerous, or at least, irresponsible, but the Dmitrievs have kept a constant following on social media of their ‘housecat’ which has a following of over half a million people between instagram and YouTube.
16. Making Room
As stated earlier, Messi was adopted into a one bedroom apartment. As a large cat, though not full sized, he was going to take up some room. Fortunately, the couple made a few compromises and learned just what it would take to make the room Messi needed.
17. Almost a Room
The couple converted their hallways into an area that Messi could climb, eat, play and relax. It may not be out in the wild, but it seems to be perfect for Messi. Enough space to climb and play, but still at home with his family.
18. Any Other Cat
Aleksandr says that Messi is just like an ordinary cat, just bigger. He has all the habit of your usual house cat, but everything is turned up to a larger size. He may also have some habits similar to that of a dog based on his training as well.
19. Comfy at Home
The biggest success is just how comfortable the big guy is at home. From all the images shared by the couple, he looks like a normal house cat in a home full of tiny furniture. Frustrations probably arise from time to time due to his size and the naturally curious nature of cats, but he seems to be a loving member of the family.
20. A Friend to All
The story of Messi has shown that we underestimate wildlife. While we see most as dangerous animals, Messi shows that they can be loving and passive. He seems to be friends with any person he meets and never a danger to anyone. Regardless of your feelings about keeping a traditionally wild animal as a pet, there is no denying just how comfortable Messi has become with his new life.