By Chloe Sweet @_CHLOESWEET

A MARRIED COUPLE who share their city apartment with their pet puma say that they consider the big cat a part of their family. Sergey and Marina Ross, both aged 32, live with their 2-year-old mountain lion, Irma in their apartment in central Moscow

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Videographer / director: Alexander Krutenkov
Producer: Chloe Sweet, James Thorne
Editor: Ed Rius 

Sergey and Marina Ross, both aged 32, live with their pet puma, called Irma, in their apartment in central Moscow.

The married couple adopted Irma from a zoo last year after hearing that they planned to put her down because they could no longer afford to keep her.

They first welcomed Irma to their home when she was just seven months old. Initially, she did not allow Sergey or Marina to touch her - but after months of adjusting to her new surroundings, she has eventually learned to love and trust them.

Sergey told Barcroft TV: “She didn’t think that we were trustworthy and she was very suspicious of us and it took a long time for us to find our common ground.

“We got a lot of bites and scratches.”

Marina told Barcroft TV: “My colleagues at work were joking and they were asking whether my husband was beating me because I was covered with scratches, bites and bruises. I said, “No – it’s just my kitty!”

“Irma has been with us already for more than a year and we can only now probably say that we have gained her trust.”

Now, the couple have regular cuddles with the 38kg cat and Sergey says that he sometimes even sleeps next to her.

The pair spend around $1000 each month on Irma’s food – maintaining her natural diet of rabbits, goats, deer and moose. But the couple say she is a “picky” puma and will only eat the freshest, farm-bred meat.

Business entrepreneur Marina said: “She will stay hungry but will never touch anything processed or from a conventional store.”

Sergey added: “If you want to know whether this or that particular meat is good, you can give it to Irma and she will tell you.”

In Russia, it is not illegal to keep a mountain lion as a pet. However a new law will be introduced next year that prohibits people from domesticating cats weighing over 20kgs.

Sergey, who works as an attorney, insists that this legislation will not affect existing owners and so they will be one of the few people “lucky” enough to be able to own such a big cat.

He suspects this law is coming into force because of the many exotic pets in Russia being “maltreated” by their owners. But he defends the choices of himself and his wife Marina by claiming that Irma would not survive if released back into her natural habitat.

Sergey said: “To those people who would say that it is cruel to keep an exotic and wild animal at home, we would say that you need to study a bit more about what is a wild animal.

“Irma is not a wild animal, she hasn’t lived outside of the house or a zoo so she cannot be reintroduced [into the wild].”

Marina added: “She doesn’t have any survival skills and hunting skills.”

Instead, they take Irma out for long walks in the forest to allow her to climb trees and keep fit.

Marina said: “To gain the trust of such a magnificent animal is something amazing, it’s something we have never experienced in our life.

“We consider Irma part of our family, even more we consider Irma our child.

“We love her so much, I would die for her.”