Meet Melissa, the friendly feline that loves to stick out her tongue for the camera.
Scottish Fold cat Melissa, who is also known as the Einstein cat by her 20,000 Instagram followers – due to the likeness between her and the genius’ famous tongue out photo – has been diagnosed with a bone degenerative disorder called Osteochondrodysplasia.
Vets advised the quirky cat’s owner, Alina Esther, to have her put down due to costly and time-consuming treatment – but instead she has become an internet sensation.
Alina, an accountant from Volgograd, Russia, became concerned after Melissa broke her leg twice in a short space of time.
The 23-year-old said: ‘After Melissa broke her leg, a few weeks later she had yet another fracture. The doctors diagnosed her with the degenerative disorder of the development of bone and cartilage.
‘Many doctors advised me to have Melissa put down because the treatment was very costly and took a lot of time and effort. It was a shock for me.
‘But I decided that no matter what, I will try to treat her until the very end. I learned to do the injections myself,’ continues Alina.
‘I photograph Melissa to remind everyone that we should not despair even in the most difficult situations.’
Scottish Fold cats are instantly recognisable by their flattened ears, but Melissa’s protruding tongue is not a typical feature of the breed.
‘Many people around the world tell me our story has resonated in their hearts,’ says Alina. ‘I try to answer all of their comments and questions on social media. Many people ask me about the disease, because they find their cats have similar symptoms and I want to try and help.’
The adorable feline regularly appears in photos sporting accessories; from bow ties and tiaras to wigs and flower crowns.
‘When she was ill I decided to start taking pictures of her to make more memories,’ says Alina. ‘I didn’t want to make sad pictures showing the terrifying reality but happy and fun pictures instead.’
To take a look at more of Melissa’s adorable pictures head to her Instagram page.