Russian Couple Share Their Home With Full-Grown Mountain Lion

Aleksandr and Maria Dmitriev, a young couple from Penza, Russia, have shared their home with a mountain lion for three years.

Cats are among the two most common pets in the world, but the cat Aleksandr and Maria Dmitriev live with in their small one-bedroom apartment is a little different. Messi is a 3-year-old puma, the second largest cat in America after the jaguar. In the wild, it’s considered an apex predator, but Messi was born in a petting zoo and has spent most of his life as a house cat. Therefore, for the time being, it basically acts like an overgrown cat. The Dmitrievs are aware that Messi is a predator who at some point will test their strength to determine who is in charge of the house, but they have taken steps to keep his wild side at bay.

Photo: I_am_Puma / Instagram

Aleksandr and Maria, both trained psychologists, have always loved cats but never dreamed of actually sharing their home with a mountain lion. Their hairless sphynx, Kira, had always been enough for them, but in 2018, when they heard that a newborn cougar cubs at the local petting zoo in Penza needed urgent medical attention, they couldn’t just sit by. The two describe the petting zoo in which the animals live in small enclosures where visitors come in to pet them. So they decided to give this sick boy a better chance in life.

The young couple knew that the young mountain lion would likely die if he didn’t save him, but they also knew that the zoo wouldn’t just give him to them. So they decided to buy it and were surprised when the petting zoo actually accepted. They brought Messi home and managed to nurse him back to health, but it wasn’t long before they realized that if they wanted to keep him, they would have to make some adjustments to their house.

Messi behaves like a big cat for the most part, but that size posed some problems. Aleksandr and Maria converted the hallway of the apartment into the cat’s headquarters and lined the walls with sheets of bamboo, which are better able to withstand the sharp claws and can be easily replaced. They also brought a large log it could climb, with its own little hiding place on the ground. But Messi’s favorite place in the house is the bathroom window, from which he can see the endless meadows around the house.

Aleksandr and Maria Dmitriev quickly realized that they needed a way to keep Messi at bay if they were to live together in harmony, but training a mountain lion was not something they were prepared for. Fortunately, they found a dog trainer willing to take their unusual pet into one of their classes, and the results have been impressive. Messi now follows basic commands such as “sit”, “stay”, “come” and “no” and even walk on a leash.

Exercise is really important to Messi’s wellbeing, but he doesn’t really have the space for it in the Dmitriev’s apartment, and it’s not like they can just let him go in the local park, so the fact that he’s been trained on a leash too walking is really important. So if you’re even in Penza, Russia, you might come across a really strange sight – someone leading a full-grown mountain lion on a leash.

The couple’s experiences with Messi so far have been “incredibly positive”, but both admit that living with a big cat has its challenges. For one, the constant attention means they can’t go on vacation or even hang out with their friends. A cat sitter for a cat of this size is also out of the question. Then there is the need for raw meat in Messi’s diet, which can cost up to $ 600 a month.

Aleksandr and Maria’s next goal is to swap their one bedroom apartment for a bigger house where they can give Messi the space he needs. If they achieve this goal, they plan to get a playmate for their pet as well, another big cat, hopefully a leopard.

Judging by the latest photos uploaded to their social media profiles, the Dmitrievs have managed to move into a bigger house and they have also got a new boyfriend for Messi. It’s just not a leopard, it’s a cheetah.

Messi has become something of an online celebrity on social media, gaining an enviable 1.5 million followers on Instagram, 1.8 million subscribers on YouTube and many more on other platforms.