Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A Russian couple's pet has become a social media sensation after they adopted a cougar from a petting zoo and brought it to live in their studio apartment.
Alexandr and Mariya Dmitriev said the 2-year-old mountain lion, Messi, has been living as a normal -- if oversized -- house pet ever since they adopted him from a petting zoo in 2016.
"The first time we saw him in the zoo, I think we both had the same feeling towards this animal," Mariya Dmitriev told Barcroft. "It was such an excitement, such tenderness. Like, I don't know, it's impossible to grasp but it was very strong."
The couple said they were surprised at Messi's gentleness.
"It was love at first sight," Alexandr Dmitriev said. "He's an amazing cat, loyal and very kind."
The Dmitrievs said Messi has a health condition that makes him only about half the size of a normal puma his age.
"We live together, sleep together," Alexandr Dmitriev said. "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."
Messi has become a social media celebrity in Russia, amassing more than 300,000 Instagram followers and earning thousands of views on his YouTube channel, I_am_puma.
A video posted to YouTube on Monday answers one of the questions the couple said they receive most often -- how does Messi go to the bathroom inside the house? The answer was simple: He uses the bathtub.
Messi's owners said it costs about $10 per day to feed the big cat.
"We give him different types of meat so that he can get all the necessary vitamins and micronutrients," Alexandr Dmitriev said.