If your kids are pestering you for a pet of their own, don’t show them this. Sofia, 11, is the proud owner of pet lynx Zen, who has been living with her family in Russia since her mum and dad, Pavel and Svetlana Nikulochkin, brought him back from an animal sanctuary as a cub four years ago.

Sofia helped bottle feed Zen right from his arrival and he evens sleeps on her bed and lets her dress him up!

“Zen is like my best friend and is very gentle with me. We play all the time but he never seems to get tired,” says Sofia. “Even though he has got bigger he still acts like when he was small.”

Her parents were always keen to have a pet lynx, and after consulting animal experts, saved enough money to buy a big enough house to have one.

In Russia it is not illegal to keep a lynx as a pet.The family found Zen in a rescue centre after he was abandoned by his mum who was part of a troupe of exotic animals performing in a travelling circus.

“After three years getting everything sorted we eventually met Zen – a small fluffy red-haired ball rumbling with his brothers and sisters hissing away,” says Pavel, 43.

“He couldn’t feed himself at this age so when we got him home we fed him with cat’s milk substitute, little by little adding some meat. We already had pet cats living at home so they took care of the new ‘kitten’ even though he looked different.

“Even now he still thinks the other cats are in charge and obeys them. He’s very funny – he purrs exactly like a cat but obeys to our commands like a dog so we often call him CatDog.

“Zen loves children and allows them to do almost anything but at the same time understands who are guests and who are strangers – he’s definitely the best guard CatDog you could wish for.”

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