Living in a zoo is not the same as living in the wild. But in certain situations, the first option is better if the animal cannot make it on its own in the wild or if it’s an endangered species. However, this was not the case of little Messi, a puma cub that arrived at a zoo in Russia. He was smaller than his siblings and that meant he needed a lot more attention from the staff, considering their mom was not around…
Messi’s story is rather strange. He was born in Penzo, Russia, at a petting zoo. When Russia hosted the World Cup, a litter of puma cubs was born: the zoo had Messi, Suarez, and Neymar as their little and fluffy stars. But while Suarez, and Neymar seemed fine, Messi was feeling ill. His condition slowly got worse to the point where not even the zoo’s vet could help him…
“Messi used to be in a contact zoo – an awful type of zoo, where animals live in small rooms with no equipment for them and every visitor can come in and touch them,” explained a friend of the couple. And that’s why Messi was in trouble, because the cubs weren’t supposed to be touched by people!
Without their mother by their side to care for them – because who would have dared to come close and pet the cubs with the puma mom around? – Messi was not going to make it. But then a Russian couple saw him and decided to do something crazy. Neither they could believe what they were going to propose to the zoo…
Messi, the smallest cub of the litter became ill and had little chances of surviving… Mariya Dmitriev explained in an interview that Messi was brought at the zoo in their city when he was only three months old: “That’s where we saw him for the first time, and it was love at first sight.” Let’s see Messi’s story and the photos of him growing up and becoming the gentleman he is today!
Later when they came visiting again, they learned he was sick! Aleksandr Dmitriev thought about adopting the poor cub, but was it the best idea? Aleksandr has always had a love for wild cats and even thought how great it would be if he would care for a lynx. But he knew that was only a dream… When people take in rescues, we usually hear stories of them caring for a cat, a dog or some domestic pet!
When he and Mariya visited the petting zoo again, they heard that there was a problem with Messi… The Russian couple thought it through: was keeping a puma common sense? Then they finally decided and tried to buy Messi from the zoo. How did the zoo officials react to that offer? It’s not like they had any other people coming and asking to buy their wild animals… Their story is so great that it made everyone realize that this puma’s life is better with them.
“So we went to the zoo and started negotiations to buy Messi. We were surprised ourselves when they agreed.” It was time for Messi to get healthier and all the care he needed… While keeping wild animals inside a house and away from their natural habitat is not recommended, this puma was in a very different situation.
There was one more thing Messi didn’t know he’ll find in his new home…
Right now, Mariya and Aleksandr Dmitriev live in Russia, in a studio apartment. They have not just one cat, but two: Kira the Sphynx cat and Messi, the 90lb puma! What did Messi do when he saw another animal in the new house?
When Messi met Kira, he knew she was the master of the house. He knew best than approach and play with her, so even today he avoids her and minds his own business! The two cats ignore each other, but other than that, they’re very spoiled! But more than that, Messi is a gentle cat that also has some dog traits, and here’s why…
Messi slowly grew up and with all the love and care from his adoptive family, he became a very beautiful puma. Although he was only the size of a large breed dog, Messi was still a big cat, compared to Kira!
Mariya explained that Messi talks a lot: “Everyone who knows him thinks he is a human in a puma’s skin. He is very talkative and always answers when we speak to him.” His humans talk to him and he would meow back and agree. Sometimes, he shows them he’s been insulted! That’s definitely a cat trait, but wait and see him act like a puppy!
If you think Messi is a big wild cat, you’re wrong! He’s still smaller than a regular puma, but looking at his owner holding him in his arms, we can all agree that’s a big cat! It’s larger than a dog. And talking about dogs, did you know Messi likes playing and running around with the dogs?
Aleksandr and Mariya warn that wild cats are not pets. Messi is unique, he has been domesticated and trained, but he also has an incredible personality. Nonetheless, they know that Messi is not a pet. He has a den of his own in the hallway! And talking about training, here he is sitting pretty in his training session at #5.
After coming from their walks, they get back to the den. Aleksandr and Mariya had a tough time caring for their puma. Messi had chronic cystitis, rickets, and muscle atrophy. Then, they discovered that the poor kitten had a broken paw. Later, they found out that he had a problem with a hip. After treatments and vitamins, they were recommended to take Messi to special training to help with a balanced training schedule. But who would want to train a puma?
Messi has the habits of the cat, as Aleksandr said – “He is just an ordinary cat, but a big one.” However, he also chews bones like dogs and even took doggie training lessons to walk in a leash, sit and follow basic commands. But that’s all thanks to his training, which he did along with dogs in puppy classes!
Messi’s favorite past time is to stare out of the window, and whenever Kira lets him on the windowsill, he climbs and looks outside. He also likes to play with soccer balls and pose for photos that are posted on his personal Instagram account! He is quite a celebrity!
Naps are also a favorite hobby, and whenever Messi sees his father take a nap, he taps him on the shoulder, asking for a hug. He then sleeps for a while and wakes up Aleksandr to play with him! Here’s more about Messi in the next photos…
Feeding a big puma is quite a challenging task! He eats mostly raw meat, and the couple spends somewhere between $300-$600 per month. Messi also takes a lot walks during the day and goes hiking in the forest with his humans.
To make sure Messi is well behaved and the family is safe around him, Messi had to be trained so that he listened to them. So he had to be taken to a special trainer, but Aleksandr couldn’t find anyone that taught wild cats to behave, so he had to improvise…
Messi was such a good boy! He learned ten commands like: sit, come, and no, and he walks in a leash just like a dog! He also behaved near other dogs and played nice with them!
Compared to the sickly pup that had little chances of surviving, Messi is now a thriving gentle cat that lives a great life with the family that saved his life. He gets the proper care and food, and spends a lot of time in the outdoors.
Because Messi is a little over half the size of a puma, he couldn’t survive in an animal sanctuary next to other pumas. He might be bullied by others of his kind because of his small size, especially since he is a male. His best chances are next to the Dmitrievs.
His training was so great that he even learned more on his own. He knows how to open doors and windows on his own, he will sit down and wait for his food while meowing for a while, and if he did something bad, he apologizes with a meow.
Although he was very sick when he was a cub, Messi is now healthy thanks to the care his family had and this is why he can travel a lot. He likes going by car, and walking in forests, fields, on the beaches and mountains is his favorite past time!
If you want to be updated on Messi’s antics, follow his Instagram account I_Am_Puma. He also has a YouTube channel filled with funny videos. Aleksandr is now dreaming of moving into a house with a big yard to let Messi run around outside! He might even get a new wild cat friend to play together!